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[i]"We did find evidence of a fracture joint along a construction joint between the first and second panels of the east wall," said Perry Becker, chief of NASA's structural systems branch at the Kennedy Space Center. "We believe that fracture was brought on by a number of different components. We have found erosion of some anchor plates that were used to secure the brick to the back wall. We've found degradation of the epoxy that was used to adhere the brick to the back wall. We have found evidence of acid deposition in that area. We've found evidence of carbonation in the area, which leeches the calcium out of the concrete, which reduces the strength of the mortar-to-concrete joints."
Becker said the damage that occurred during Discovery's May 31 liftoff apparently happened when a Fondu Fyre patch over an area of earlier erosion ripped away seconds after booster ignition.
"We believe, based on pre- and post-launch pictures, that we liberated a Fondu Fyre patch that was put over an area of fairly significant erosion," he said. "We think the lack of adhesion on that wall resulted in some bowing off the back wall and resulted in the liberation of that patch. Once that patch was liberated at launch, we believe that created the intrusion point that got the hot gas behind the wall."
Once booster exhaust gases got behind the brick layer, "we had impingement on the back wall and with no real adhesive strength left in that local area, we started a localized failure," Becker said. "Due to the interlocking nature of the brick, we believe that led to a cascading failure on down the wall."[/i]
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