Final checks successful – Endeavour cleared for re-entry

by Chris Bergin

With the successful checkout of Endeavour’s Flight Control Systems (FCS) and the RCS (Reaction Control System) hotfire, the final evaluations have been taking place to clear the orbiter for re-entry tomorrow.

The imagery of Endeavour’s TPS (Thermal Protection System (TPS) – via Flight Day 12’s Late Inspections – have been cleared, and the weather situation shows Endeavour has a good opportunity to return to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Tuesday.

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The FCS checkout is a vital element of ensuring Endeavour can conduct the DAP (Digital Auto Pilot) stage of re-entry – as she changes from a spaceship into an aircraft – along with the final part, landing under the control of Commander Scott Kelly and Pilot Charlie Hobaugh.

The RCS will also be involved for the first part of re-entry, helping Endeavour control her attitude and positioning before and after deorbit burn, and also through entry-interface, observed as flashes from the flight deck.

‘Review of RCS hotfire data indicates that all thrusters were successfully fired,’ noted information. ‘Chamber pressure (Pc) was nominal for all jets where data was available. (Thruster) L3L was fired during a period of ‘ratty comm’ and as such, Pc was not available. However, fuel and oxidizer injector temperature signatures indicated that a nominal firing had occurred.’

An Air Data probe transducer #3 issue was also cleared after an electrical connection was deemed off nominal.

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‘We had a system’s checkout very early, and all the systems onboard Endeavour are ready for entry tomorrow,’ said STS-118 Entry Flight Director Steve Stich.

Weather looks favorable for the new plan of returning back to Earth tomorrow, with a deorbit burn at 11:25am Eastern bringing Endeavour home on a North West to South East approach, touching down at 12:32pm Eastern, on Runway 15 of the Kennedy Space Center.

‘Slight chance of rain showers within 30 miles, about 13 knots on crosswind,’ noted the latest NASA weather report. ‘Expect to be slightly less for first deorbit opportunity.’

Meanwhile, engineers have been looking over Flight Day 12’s OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System) images, gained via the required Late Inspection checks on the orbiter’s primary areas of the heatshield. 1342 ROIs (Regions Of Interest) have been noted since the inspections on Flight Day 2, but all areas are now cleared for re-entry.

Endeavour has had a successful return to operations – her first flight for nearly five years – which included the debuting of the SSPTS (Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System).

Also making a debut is the three-string GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system, which replaces the three Tactical Navigation Units. This system was checked out during a 10 minute Ops 3 test today, and passed without issue.

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