Arc Jet testing on tile damage encouraging – repair decision Thursday

by Chris Bergin

Continued testing at the Arc Jet facility has raised hopes that an on orbit repair for Endeavour’s damaged tiles may not be required. A decision by the Management Mission Team (MMT) has been delayed to Thursday.

High resolution images of the tests, with additional thermal data, shows the damaged area remained 50 degrees below the baseline temperature requirement. Additional computational testing is required before STS-118’s EVA repair option decision is taken.

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Shuttle managers are reviewing the data gained from the tests conducted at the Arc Jet Facility – which was also the key facility used in the OMS Pod blanket repair testing during STS-117 – along with any repair options at their disposal.

‘The MMT repair decision is now expected to be made on Thursday (FD9) due to ongoing analysis,’ noted information on Wednesday. ‘It is preferable to clear the vehicle for re-entry through analysis without repair.’

The tests are being evaluated in an attempt to mitigate additional processing for Endeavour, ahead of her next launch next year (STS-123). The repair option will only be taken if it dramatically improves the repair timeline on the damaged tiles inside the OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility).

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The tests at Arc Jet used a set of tiles, with identical damage drilled on to a test article. This was then put through the heat of a simulated re-entry, to test how the damaged area performed, along with the gathering of thermal data.

‘The Arc Jet test using the damaged test article was completed, initial assessment did not identify structural burn through,’ noted one encouraging memo, with data showing that the heating remained 50 degrees below the baseline requirement for the underlying structure.

In total, Arc Jet are conducing several tests on tile test articles. One will be done on an undamaged test article to obtain a baseline – this has been completed, and was successful in its aims. This was followed by a test using the same test article with the simulated damage on the shuttle.

‘Finally, a test article will be machined like the first one, repaired with the goo (T-Rad/STA-54), and tested,’ noted Arc Jet information. ‘The plans are to fly the second test article and an astronaut to Colorado to do the repair, and then fly it back here for the test.’

Astronaut Scott Parazynski is conducting the simulated on orbit test.

The T-RAD (Tile Repair Ablator Dispenser) is based on the concept of a smaller STA-5 applicator, which was part of a scrapped CIPAA (cure in place ablator applicator) back pack system.

If a repair is called, the mission will be extended to allow for two repair-related spacewalks, one to repair the damage, and another to check the results (curing) of the repair.

‘The leading repair option continues to be emittance wash coupled with Tile Repair Ablator Dispenser (T-RAD/STA-54),‘ added information. ‘The timeline still remains at a 14+2 day mission but could be extended to a 16+2 to allow for the repair EVA.

‘The repair would be done on EVA-4 with the addition of an EVA-5 to complete original EVA4 activities, verification of repairs, or a combination of both.’

(Set of hi res test article – pre-post testing – images, data, memos etc. Plus presentations on T-Rad – available on L2).

L2 members: All documentation – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.


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