TPS inspections for Atlantis – Port OMS Pod blanket issue

by Chris Bergin

A four inch piece of Thermal Protection System (TPS) blanket is protruding out of the port OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) Pod – and is currently being evaluated by managers on the ground.

The damage to the blanket was reported by the crew at 3:45am GMT at the latter stages of Flight Day 1. Flight Day 2 involves a full day of inspections – as scheduled – which will include a closer look at the OMS Pod blanket, which wasn’t hit by a close passing tyvek cover, managers claimed on Saturday.

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After what was a clean ascent from initial information, Atlantis will undergo an extensive scan of her TPS during Flight Day 2. Further photography will be taken of her belly just prior to arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday.

Two small pieces of foam were observed liberating from the tank on the ET cam during ascent, although they appear to hold no concerns, given their size, time of release, along with apparently missing the orbiter. Managers noted that it is usual to see these small releases at that stage of the ride uphill.

What is gaining notes of interest is the protruding piece of blanket on the OMS Pod, which was spotted by the camera on the end of the RMS (Remote Manipulator System) following its unberthing. Such ‘tears’ in TPS blanket have been observed before on previous missions.

‘Preliminary Area of Interest in TPS inspection: Around a 4 inch blanket reported sticking out at the port OMS pod at the time of the black time ‘Christmas tree’,’ noted NASA information. ‘Crew reported that on the port OMS pod they can see a 4 to 5 inch piece of blanket sticking up. They are getting photos.

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Plans are already being made to take a closer look during the Flight Day 2 TPS inspections. More information is expected early FD 2.

In all, Atlantis only has two issues on orbit. Four anomalies were noted from the countdown to being on orbit, with the first two – MSBLS 3 (MLS – Microwave Landing System) Failed Range Self Test and MPS (Main Propulsion System) LO2 Left ECO (Engine Cut Off) Sensor 2 Momentary ‘Dry’ Indication – both understood conditions.

The latter two issues were bot found shortly after Atlantis started on-orbit operations, one being the aforementioned ‘Port OMS POD Blanket Sticking up’ anomaly, and the other being ‘FA3 Card 14 A/D BITE,’ which is low-level diagnostic circuitry, used to help discriminate real problems from instrumentation failures.

‘FA3 is the #3 Flight Aft MDM, with an MDM basically being I/O controller, relaying commands and data between the GPCs (General Purpose Computers) and actuators, sensors, etc. of various types,’ explained a source. ‘Card 14 is an I/O card in the MDM. A/D refers to the BITE circuitry on the analog-to-digital converter on that card.’

Latest reports from sources on Saturday speak of a Tyvek cover which was seen to pass by the OMS Pod in question. However, NASA managers believe the cover didn’t make contact on first views in hi resolution images – acquired by L2 – of all debris events during ascent.

‘Analysis by launch team looking at other camera views show that the tyvek cover did NOT strike the OMS pod,’ noted NASA information, following some notes that this was the cause of the damage.

“Tyvek cover released 11.2 seconds after launch. Cover passes near port OMS pod but does not contact it.”

Further information will be added as it arrives.

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