NASA decide to repair OMS Pod blanket via EVA – Extend mission

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers have decided that they will repair the protruding piece of blanket on Atlantis’ port OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) Pod, following a meeting today, extending STS-117 by two days.

The repair will be carried out no earlier than EVA 3, and may involve a fourth EVA during STS-117. The repair will involve the blanket being pushed back into place and secured with ties and pins. The meetings also cleared all areas of Atlantis’ TPS for re-entry, bar the two gap fillers at present – which are deemed as no concern.

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NASA used their ‘Team 4’ engineers and technicians to look at the options open to them in regards to either repairing the area of the blanket, or if to leave the blanket ‘as-is.’

Engineers are currently looking at testing the methods that will be carried out, in order to create a timeline and plan the procedure.

The area where the pod is damaged can be reached by the Atlantis’ robotic arm with a work platform attached, mirroring the EVA carried out by STS-114 astronaut Steve Robinson, who removed two protruding gap fillers from Discovery’s belly via the ISS’ robotic arm.

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This time the spacewalker will be transport to the top aft area of Atlantis, where he will fold the blanket back down by hand, before being held in place by – to be decided – pins, ties, tape or other available techniques.

‘OMS Pod Blanket has memory – can push back to original position; leave blanket in place,’ noted Team 4 to the all-powerful Mission Management Team (MMT) meeting.

‘Assuming aero loads are too high, fasten or sew to an adjacent blanket using stuff from parachute repair kit onboard – use needle and stainless steel wire (22 gauge); or use a medical stapler (per Flight Surgeon) – will go look at these.’

Earlier in the day it started to look likely that the decision would be to go ahead with the repair of the blanket, classing it as ‘highly likely.’

‘Several repair options are still being evaluated,’ noted NASA information acquired by ‘Most likely method right now is tucking the blanket down, plus some kind of stitching/attachment method (likely using wire or pins). Testing of various methods planned for 3 p.m. today (8pm GMT).’

‘Cutting off and replacing blankets, or drilling into structure, have been pretty much ruled out.

‘No earlier than EVA 3. may insert a 4th EVA.’

The EVA will also have the positive learning curve of new spacewalk repair techniques, especially ahead of the flagship STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. This mission will not have the ‘safe haven’ of the International Space Station (ISS).

Latest news from the MMT meeting notes that four EVAs now appear to be the thinking at NASA, with the repair being carried out on EVA 3, with the previously scheduled tasks on EVA 3 being moved to an EVA 4.

‘There was a great deal of discussion about the blanket at the blanket,’ added NASA information. ‘The general conclusion was that the blanket needs to be fixed before re-entry and another EVA to repair the problem will most likely be needed. That EVA will probably be EVA 3 and EVA 3 will be moved to 4.’

This decision – on which EVA they will use to carry out the repair – will be decided tomorrow. However, the MMT has already decided to extend Atlantis’ mission by two days as a result.

‘The MMT has just extended the STS-117 mission by two days to affect EVA repair to the OMS pod thermal blanket,’ added a memo. ‘The repair will occur on either EVA 3 or 4. That decision will be made tomorrow. The crew will be contacted at the end of their day today.’

NASA are also investigating a hit registered on Atlantis’ Wing Leading Edge. Classed as a MMOD event (the first of the mission), it wasn’t stated which wing registered the hit.

‘There was also a 0.5g hit on the WLE sensor last night at around 2:41am. This may come during FI (Focused Inspection) since it occurred after the flight day 2 checkout.

‘Attempting to determine the time of MMOD Case 01.’

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