NASA Reports Sabotage of Flight Computer

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A space station computer deliberately damaged in an act of sabotage was found and will be fixed and launched next month as intended aboard shuttle Endeavour, NASA officials said July 26, 2007.

The damage was done at a subcontractor factory and was not related to a machinist's strike against shuttle contractor United Space Alliance that enters its seventh week Friday.

NASA space operations chief Bill Gerstenmaier said he had no idea why someone would want to damage the computer, which is designed to retrieve data from gauges on the station's central truss.

"I don't want to speculate on motivation," he said.

The damage would not have jeopardized the astronauts aboard the shuttle or the station, Gerstenmaier said.

Had the sabotaged unit flown, NASA would have been forced to replace it before truss sensor data could be gathered for engineering evaluation.

Endeavour and seven astronauts are scheduled to blast off Aug. 7 on a mission to deliver a new segment for the truss, which serves as the metallic backbone of the station.

Gerstenmaier said the sabotage was reported to NASA by the subcontractor in mid-July. Inspectors at the subcontractor factory found electrical wiring within a qualification unit had been intentionally cut.

NASA inspectors then checked a flight computer the subcontractor had delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for launch aboard Endeavour. The wiring in it had been severed, too.

"The damage is very obvious. It's easy to detect," Gerstenmaier said.

Gerstenmaier would not identify the subcontractor, but he said the company supplies gauges and computers for the space station as well as sensor systems used in the wings of shuttle orbiters.

The damaged computer is being repaired and will be installed as planned in the station's U.S. Destiny science laboratory after it is delivered to the outpost by Endeavour's crew.

The sabotage is being investigated by NASA's Inspector General

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