Last minute problem – but rollout is approved

by Chris Bergin

Lockheed Martin engineers have evaluated what was being described as “low foam” on the closeout of repairs on the nose cone of ET-124.

The hail damaged tank is undergoing Ogive Pencil Point BX-265 (foam) trim operations during these final stages of completing the requirements for rollout. However, Atlantis will head to Pad 39A on the 16th, following a review of the tank repairs on Friday.

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Should the evaluations – which were ongoing on Thursday through Friday – prove the low foam areas require re-work, engineers will need to trim out the undersprayed area, re-apply conathane and re-spray the affected area.
‘Ogive Pencil Point BX-265 trim operations utilizing the tool will be continuing today,’ noted Thursday’s ET-124 repair presentation. ‘Lockheed Martin is currently evaluating some areas of low foam in the closeout.’

The machine trim was performed on the pencil sharpener area on Wednesday, where it was noticed that several large patches around the top of the LO2 tank appeared to be undersprayed.

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Images show the trim was successful. However, observations showed that some of the ‘smoothed’ down areas in question had what appeared to be dips, which are the areas where Lockheed Martin engineers are evaluating a course of action, which could include flying as-is.

Other options include another trim operation, then respraying the cone area. The evaluations include how the area will react with the thermal issues associated with loading the tank with super cold propellants, and aerodynamic issues with the tank during ascent.

Lockheed Martin today decided to trim down some areas of the tank today, and more is expected to be trimmed on Friday, in what is a delicate operation. The effort is be carried out slowely as to ensure workers do not remove too much foam from the areas.

NASA managers made no reference to the low foam issue during a press conference today, despite the issue being documented over the past two days on NASA presentations.

However, the issue appears to be within tolerances for a final trim, with the confirmation of rollout on the 16th – or maybe even the 15th – being noted by shuttle manager Wayne Hale.

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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