NASA says the risk of ice striking the space shuttle after launch is low enough to go ahead with plans to send Discovery into space next month. NASA engineers had been concerned that ice chunks flying off the external fuel tank could strike the orbiter.
Falling chunks of ice could be even more menacing than pieces of the fuel tank's insulating foam, which was responsible for Columbia's destruction over East Texas during re-entry and the deaths of seven astronauts in 2003.
But after millions of computer simulations and tests the past six weeks, space shuttle program manager Bill Parsons called it an "acceptable risk."
The launch window opens July 13.
Two more meetings next week will determine whether Discovery lifts off on schedule.