Images of tank show little damage

by Chris Bergin

Handheld and umbilical well photography of External Tank (ET-119) has shown very little foam liberation, during the ascent stage of yesterday’s STS-121.

A collection of high resolution images – acquired by – back up the initial findings made by Shuttle manager Wayne Hale, who last night noted his optimism that the tank had performed to his expectations.
**STS-121: Launch: July 4 LIVE Launch/Debris/Flight Day 1** – review the day’s events in full. **STS-121: Flight Day 2 Live Updates**

A vast collection of hi-res images – and a new video showing slow-motion impact from foam strike, can be viewed on L2.

Scan-panel: I-06. Sensor: LDRI. Comment: ROI Found, white mark found near the T seal.

Scan-panel: I-07. Sensor: LDRI. Comment: 3 ROIs found, 1 white scuff mark and 2 white dots found near the middle of the panel.

Scan-panel: I-09. Sensor: LDRI. Comment: 4 ROIs found.
**Above image has been deemed to be bird poo**
Main article:

The largest area of foam liberation – although nothing even close to that seen shedding from the PAL ramp on STS-114’s ET-121 – is missing TPS (Thermal Protection System) foam, forward of an Ice/Frost ramp at location xt 1269 on the tank.

Photography shows that the closeout area where the PAL ramp was removed from the tank suffered no damage or liberation. Importantly, the modified Ice/Frost ramps also remained intact – despite fears from some sectors of NASA, prior to flight.

Currently classed as ‘possible missing TPS’ – potential shedding can be seen in another image, showing what appears to be a white patch – consistent with foam loss – on the Y Side of the LO2 feedline. This area is very small and just visible on the photography.

A very high resolution image, showing the tank after it was separated from Discovery, shows very little damage on the tank overall. Some areas below the Bi-Pod ramp show signs of ‘popcorning’ although that is inconclusive and not proven by the documentation surrounding the images. Also, images of the area prior to launch show similar patterns and ‘pits’.

One of the latest images to be acquired is from camera ORU130, tagged ‘First Umbilical Well Image – Missing TPS and Ablation.’ This image shows two areas of foam loss. It is neither noted nor worth guessing how large the liberation was.

Discovery is currently carrying out inspection of her TPS (Thermal Protection System) via the use of the 50-foot Orbital Boom Sensor System (OBSS). This inspection will be used to confirm the orbiter did not suffer damage from foam strikes during ascent.

It is currently known that one strike did occur – as seen in video footage from the ET camera – during ascent, although NASA has noted they aren’t concerned about potential damage, given the strike occurred in the late stages of ascent.

Article shows cropped and reduced images.

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