Washington — Despite a fire Wednesday which damaged a backup engine, the US Space Shuttle now is headed for its first launching next March. In a major decision taken Thursday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed both the launch date and the schedule for important intermediate tests. There will be a rollout of the flight vehicle for the press Nov. 23, followed by a flight- readiness test in February. In this test, the engines will be fired while the launch vehicle is tied down to the pad.
Whether or not NASA can hold to this schedule remains to be seen. The shuttle program has had repeated setbacks of previous schedules. However, NASA Administrator Robert Frosch emphasized that the decision was made after a hard look was taken at remaining problems. He expressed confidence that, this time, the launch date can be met.