Shuttle Endeavour has completed the visually stunning Rbar Pitch Maneuver (RPM), which was followed by successful docking with the International Space Station (ISS) at 1:02pm (Central).
During the RPM, Expedition 15 crew members on the ISS took photography of Endeavour’s belly and TPS (Thermal Protection System), with several areas already of interest – including both OMS Pods, which were classed as “Regions Of Interest – ROIs” overnight.
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The RPM allows the ISS crew to perform a high resolution photo survey of the lower surface thermal protection system (TPS) tiles to screen for ascent debris damage.
The maneuver was debuted on STS-114’s Return To Flight mission, following months of planning by shuttle experts at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).
They were tasked with the limitations on crew and sensor visibility, maneuvers conducted about an unstable orbital stationkeeping position, inherently unstable attitude dynamics, thruster plume impingement on the ISS, shuttle propellant limitations, and a very tight set of lighting and geometry constraints for the inspection photography.
Last week, Expedition 15 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov have successfully completed a standard 30-min Shuttle RPM skill training exercise, head of the arrival of Endeavour.
The two Russian used their DCS-760 digital still cameras with 400 and 800mm lenses at SM windows 6 and 8 to take target imagery.
A large set of data has already been gathered on the health of Endeavour’s heat shield, followng Flight Day 2’s OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System) scans, with most areas seen to be free of any damage (images and presentations on L2).
As with all flights, even the smallest area of interest gains the attention of engineers on the ground, ensuring nothing is left to chance.
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Called ROIs – or Regions Of Interest – several have been spotted already, notably on both OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) Pods.
One Pod is noted to have a blanket pulled back with some slight protrusion. Although the wording is similar to that noted for Atlantis’ OMS Pod blanket issue during STS-117 – which required a spacewalk to pin back into place – Endeavour’s OMS Pod blanket protrusion is not as ‘obvious’ to the naked eye, and is unlikely to require any action at this stage.
The other ROI relates to the adjacent OMS Pod, which is deemed to have a protruding gap filler. Both Pods will receive further evaluation before – and after – the upcoming RPM.
Other ROIs already noted include the need for more imagery of horsecollar gap fillers on the lower starboard panel and on the starboard RCC panel (number 22).
This maneuver will also aid confirmation that the ET (External Tank) doors on the orbiter have closed properly, to the point no yellow lines are visible. Imagery will be used to confirm that the doors did reach their ‘fully closed’ positions.
Docking with the International Space Station is set to take place at 1:53pm Eastern.
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