Early images acquired by this site from this morning’s Rendezvous Pitch Manoeuvre (RMS) photography show protruding Gap Fillers near both ET Umbilical Doors on Shuttle Atlantis.
One Gap Filler – which has a very strange appearance – on the Port Umbilical Door is classed as “critical” – although Mission Managers decided that a Focused Inspection is not required, ruling out its removal.
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Key Points/Newsflashes: Stunning RPM (RBAR) complete. Docking confirmed. First RPM images now on L2. Strange Protruding Gapfiller spotted – vast information available on L2.. Payload removal complete.
Refer to live update thread for up to the second updates.
A 78 meg Super Hi Res recording of the RPM downloadable on L2.
At this stage it is too early to know if an EVA will be called to remove the Gap Filler classed as critical, although its appearance, size and location ensure it will be studied in great detail by engineers and managers on the ground.
Its appearance does not match that of previous protruding Gap Fillers spotted since inspections began back on STS-114, and appears to be detached from the orbiter’s tiles – casting a shadow on the image.
Other images show the dimensions, 1.42 inches across at its widest point on the X axis, 1.72 inches in height at its largest protrudance away from Atlantis’ tiles – and 1.6 inches in thickness.
Currently, NASA is reviewing installation data from when the Gap Filler was installed into Atlantis’ belly, along with STS-121 analytical work, plus definitions on potential impacts relating to heating/thermal/subsytems, to assess need for EVA/Focused Inspection.
In all, NASA is currently evaluating 17 areas of tile damage, two areas of damaged blankets and the two protruding Gap Fillers.
Later today, STS-115 Shuttle manager John Shannon noted that at this time he is not too concerned by the Gap Fillers.
‘I think you all got to see the video of the RPM to photograph the underside of the vehicle,’ he noted. ‘In the MMT today, we saw three Gap Fillers that were protruding, two on either ET doors.
‘None of these concern the team at this time, but the team is going to go through the normal process of checking thermal dynamics.â€
Shannon did admit that it was ’50/50′ on whether this Gap Filler – or others – would require a Focused Inspection. However, during EVA-1, Flight Controllers noted that the FI would not be required.
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