ET repairs may push STS-117 to May 11 – major manifest changes

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers have created four alternative manifests, following the delay to STS-117 due to repair requirements on ET-124.

While the schedules show slips to the next nine flights – including best and worst case scenarios for the amount of time required to repair the tank – the current six week/45 day repair schedule places STS-117 on a NET (No Earlier Than) May 11 launch date on the new manifest.

**The most comprehensive collection of STS-117 onwards related presentions and mission documentation are available to download on L2 **

**LIVE news updates on Atlantis STS-117 –  ET repair latest**

**LIVE news updates on Endeavour STS-118 (LON-318) Processing**

**LIVE news updates on Discovery STS-122 (LON-322) Processing**

Related Notes and Presentations on L2, including: New FAWG Manifests – Post ET Damage. Daily Ops Reports. The NASA and Lockheed Martin notes on the ET damage (VAST), plus new images and several presentations. ET Manifest (Lockheed Martin) ET-117 Production Milestone Presentations, ‘through to’ STS-124 Baseline Mission Presentations, plus more, available to download on L2.

**Previous articles on the damage events: Article 1Article 2** – Article 3 – Article 4** Click on the images for more screenshots of the damage.

**FREE 100mb video of the NASA ET Damage press briefing** – required to login to forum.

Out of the four evaluations, two are consistent with the current estimate of ET repair requirements, from the Lockheed Martin/Michoud Assembly Facility presentation that stated a six week timeline for repairs, to the scenario of switching to ET-117 (STS-118). 

A meeting on Tuesday will be the first major assessment of the tank’s condition, following Atlantis’ return to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) on Sunday. Engineers have been taking a closer look at the tank to aid that meeting’s evaluations.

‘Hail damage walkdown and ET baseline configuration imaging began Sunday following MLP hard down in VAB HB-1,’ noted Monday’s expansive daily ops report. ‘Access configuration as well as further damage assessments/inspections will continue through Wednesday. On Tuesday there will be pre-test briefing meetings for hail damage assessment and repair.’

Working on the 45 day ET repair plan, the new manifest estimates that STS-117 will be delayed until May 11, with a chain reaction rippling throughout the manifest. The following flight – Endeavour’s return to action with STS-118 – would be delayed until July 19, which is only a short delay, after been previously due to launch June 28.

However, with Discovery out of action until the end of the year due to SSPTS (Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System) modifications taking place, Atlantis’ 108 day OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) flow knocks her next mission – STS-120 – back until October 25, after previously been due to launch August 26.

Providing the ET flow from MAF continues along the current schedule, Discovery’s return with STS-122 might just make the end of the year, with a new NET launch date of December 29, slipping from October 17. This date would not be a problem, now that a YERO (Year End Rollover) solution has been finalized.

This all leads to a potential four – but more likely three – flight manifest for the Shuttle in 2007. While shuttle manager Wayne Hale noted he was still hopeful of the originally planned five launches, STS-123, now moved to February 7, was already in 2008 according to contractor manifests and even the Russian launch schedule.

As with all manifests, the launch dates are mainly used as guidelines for all elements of the shuttle program to plan towards, and overall, the effect on the launch schedule for the program is only affected by a couple of months, despite this totally unforeseen event of the damage to STS-117’s tank due to the freak hail storm.

The evaluations – and progression with the repairs – are likely to alter these dates, depending on how fast, or how troublesome the repairs take. However, the worst case scenario would be the decision that ET-124’s damage is too severe to repair inside the VAB. This would require STS-117 having to wait for the next tank to arrive, ET-117, which is still undergoing final construction at MAF.

**Ride home through the fire and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis on STS-115 – And now also with Discovery on STS-116 – TWO Stunning high quality 2hr, 355mb videos – from deorbit burn to post landing**

With ET-117 still in New Orleans, the estimated fallout on the shuttle manifest is more severe than the current ET-124 repair outlook. Following NASA’s manifest for such a scenario, launches would be delayed by around three months. STS-117 would move to June 21, STS-118 to August 26, STS-120 to November 29 and STS-122 to January 24, 2008.

The possibility of a positive outcome to ET repairs should not be dismissed, with the potential to make a late April launch date still possible, despite the latest estimates pointing towards May. Those optimistic schedules still point to delays throughout the next nine flights, ranging from a couple of weeks, to nearly two months in some cases. 

However, no-nonsense JSC manager Paul Hill, speaking in the agency’s 8th Floor News, is hopeful of a speedy ET repair allowing for a late April launch. 

‘The hail damage to the STS-117 stack on Feb 26 is old news now. Innovative scaffolding solutions will be used for detailed damage assessments to the orbiter, ET and SRBs. While the ET damage has become common knowledge, there is also known orbiter tile damage and some minor SRB damage. The Orbiter Project Office is also assessing options for inspecting all RCC, including NDE to ensure there is no subsurface RCC damage,’ noted Hill.

‘KSC will have hands on the hardware beginning Monday. Assuming that the damage is no worse than the preliminary assessments, and assuming all repairs can be made in the VAB, it’s possible that the STS-117 could launch as early as April 23. There are a string of unknowns that must fall in our favor for that to happen and requires the stack back on the pad by April 1. Worst case for the ET would require switching to the STS-118 ET.’

Further articles will follow. Please refer to the live update pages on L2 (for NASA presentations, memos, emails and images) and on Atlantis’ section (open to all).

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