NASA clear Atlantis for re-entry

by Chris Bergin

NASA’s Tiger Team – working alongside controllers this morning to aid the scanning of Shuttle Atlantis – have been looking into at least 11 debris events, using the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System) to check specific areas.

The resulting images and data presented to the MMT (Mission Management Team) showed Atlantis is still a clean bird, and she has officially been cleared for re-entry tomorrow morning.


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Today’s events:

Slightly before 7:30am EDT, another object was seen racing across camera views.

The latest object was spotted shortly after internal chatter was telling the crew to make haste with preparations for landing tomorrow, following what was deemed a successful initial survey. More OBSS work is being carried out at present.

‘Looks like some sort of reflective cloth. Not rigid, maybe a strap. Metallic. Doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen on the outside of the Shuttle,’ said Commander Brett Jett, who noted they were looking at it through binoculars, whilst taking pictures with a 400mm camera.

Jett then used the SRMS (Shuttle Remote Manipulator System – or Shuttle Robotic Arm) to take an image of the objects in front of the orbiter, noting what appears to be ‘two rings and a foil like object. Could be EVA hardware.’

NASA controllers did note, however, that Atlantis’ trajectory in relation to Soyuz orbits passed within 20 nmi of each other, which could have been the source.

This morning, the Expedition 14 crew, along with space tourist Anousheh Ansari, docked with the International Space Station, which involved passing below Atlantis en route to the station.

Importantly, yesterday’s main area of interest was in identifying the key debris image which had gained the attention of NASA managers. Shuttle manager Wayne Hale noted that he believed it to be the plastic Shim Stock that was protruding from the ET Port Door.

That appears to be the case, following information this morning noting that the Shim Stock is no longer visible on the belly of the orbiter. ‘NASA S&MA shim stock appears to be gone from the ET umbilical door.

‘An SRMS survey was conducted via the crew of the port and stbd WLE, wings, nose cap, crew cabin and belly tile acreage,’ noted the information. ‘During this scan the TPS-DAT reviewed much data live, got the rest via playback. TPS folks said all looked good.

‘Also, of note the port shim-stock was gone, and there was not enough imagery to know if there the gap-filler in the starboard side ET door was still there.’

This morning’s focus:

Under focus this morning was the Port Elevon, where debris was seen moving around the wing. Another event was seen in the same area on the Starboard Elevon.

The OBSS was used alongside the RMS, waiting for lighting conditions to allow for good scanning of the main areas of interest, such as the wings and the nose cap.

Since the debris events were noted, NASA has been working being able to ‘quantify the size and source of the debris.’

‘Multiple debris was seen on both side of the Shuttle during articulation of the respective elevons – Port Side: 5 Debris Items, Starboard Side: 6 Debris Items,’ noted a report acquired by this site.

‘At least four of the debris items originated from within the payload bay and can be seen passing in front of the payload bay door seal. The maximum size of the debris which passes in front of the payload bay door seal is 0.59’x 0.46′(assuming a 48’camera to door distance).

‘The remaining 7 debris items can not be traced to their point of origin, but each has the same general size and non-descript appearance as the debris seen exiting the payload bay. It is most likely the debris came from within the payload bay and is small (less than 1’in size).’

Opportunity 1: Deorbit – 4:15AM CT Landing – 5:21AM CT
Opportunity 2: Deorbit – 5:50AM CT Landing – 6:51AM CT

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