NASA decide against ET swap – early June possible for STS-117

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers have decided to continue repairs on ET-124, as opposed to swapping with ET-117, after engineering analysis showed positive results for being able to complete complex foam repairs on the hail damaged tank.

A new launch schedule will be drawn up in six days time, although the earliest launch opportunity for Atlantis will be the second week of June – as revealed by last week – placing STS-117 with a NET (No Earlier Than) June 8 launch date target.

**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 VAB Flow**

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

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Related documentation on L2: Major STS Flight Schedule Changes (New FAWGs) – March 27 – NASA White Paper on Manifest Changes – March 27 – Shuttle Flight Preparation Status Charts to STS-124. ET Repair Documentation – from start of March to April – plus more.

**Previous articles related to the ET damage events: Article 1Article 2 – Article 3 – Article 4 – Article 5 – Article 6 – Article 7 – Article 8 – Article 9 – Article 10Article 11 – Article 12 – Article 13 – Article 14** Click for more screenshots of the damage.

The meeting, which lasted longer than expected, worked on the rationale of being able to repair ET-124 to within the high standards that would satisfy NASA Safety and NASA Engineering requirements.
While repairs have been taking place on the tank over the past couple of weeks, the ‘non standard’ areas of repair became the key factor on the decision to continue with the effort inside the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) – or if it would be best to swap with ET-117.
ET-117, now on dock at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, is primarily set to fly with Endeavour on STS-118. However, the option remained – and will continue to be on standby – to swap with ET-124, in order to fly with Atlantis and keep within the June target.
The new tank, which arrived at the end of last week, will remain inside its barge until April 16, allowing ET workers at KSC to concentrate on the repair effort on ET-124.

‘As of right now we’re going to stick with ET-124. We could get a surprise that would change our opinion, with a launch date of about the second week in June,’ said Shuttle manager Wayne Hale, who also noted that the current target is to rollout Atlantis to the launch pad May 6th. 

‘We hope the second flight (STS-118) will be sometime in August,’ added Hale, pointing towards two launches in the space of two months. The potential of four flights in 2007 is a possibility, but will depend on STS-117’s eventual launch date and orbiter processing throughout the year.

**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**

Work on ET-124 is proceeding well, with the latest update showing that hundreds of holes created by the hail storm have now been filled with replacement foam. However, no ‘sand and blend’ repairs have taken place at this time.

‘Engineering evaluation of each hole to determine desired PDL injection size is being performed prior to Conathane application,’ noted Tuesday’s Launch Ops report. ‘As of 2300 hrs last night: 210 of 658 items have PDL applied and in cure. Conathane/PDL application to another 96 items was in work on 3rd shift last night and will continue today.’
Meanwhile, both Atlantis and Endeavour are undergoing SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) removal, to check for the ‘RepliSet contamination’ issue which arose last week. The process – from removal to reinstallation and testing – will only take a couple of weeks.

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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