Focused Inspection called to check on Endeavour ice damage

by Chris Bergin

For the first time since STS-114, Shuttle managers have called for a Focused Inspection (FI) to take place on Flight Day 5 of STS-118, after damage was spotted on a tile on the belly of Endeavour.

Images showing a white mark on a tile near the starboard main landing gear and External Tank doors on the orbiter were gathered during today’s Rbar Pitch Maneuver (RPM), although the FI is required to help managers on the ground to decide if it requires repair, or clear it for re-entry.

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As previously reported by this site, three tracking camera on the ground caught images of what was deemed as debris, striking the underside of Endeavour at T+58 seconds during first stage ascent.

‘Single light colored piece of debris seen near starboard inboard elevon,’ noted one imagery memo, which includes the three high resolution photos of when the strike took place (on L2). ‘Debris appears to contact the vehicle (light colored spray noted two frames later).’

Given the lack of a correlating piece of foam liberation from the tank, further reviews were carried out – including the evaluation of radar imagery – which eventually came to the conclusion that the strike was from a piece of ice, liberated from an unknown area of the stack.

Shuttle manager John Shannon noted that ice is more of a concern than a foam strike, as ice is denser and can potentially result in more damage, should it strike the heat protective tiles on the orbiter.
Shannon was speaking after reviewing some of the opening sets of RPM images taken by the Expedition 15 crew on board the ISS, as Endeavour did a 360 degree backflip under the station.

The resulting images showed the main impact point, where the ice broke up and hit other areas of the surrounding TPS (Thermal Protection System) – to a lesser extent.

The FI will concentrate on taking a much closer look at the area in question, via the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System) – which will provide managers with the data they need on whether it requires repairing via the numerous tile repair capabilities onboard the orbiter.

The actual call to repair the tile will only be taken if the damage warrants the action. Orbiters have landed with far worse damage than is likely to be found on this tile during Flight Day 5’s FI.

However, NASA rightly aren’t leaving anything to chance, using FI in its allotted reserve point in the schedule to go and gather some more data on the area in question.

Meanwhile, NASA managers have given their initial findings on the OBSS scans of Flight Day 2, clearing the leading edge RCC panels, although with other major areas of the orbiter will be evaluated further over the next day or two.

Also, Regions Of Interest (ROIs) relating to the OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) Pods have been scaled down in importance following a review of the latest imagery.

Shuttle managers also confirmed that the debut of the SSPTS (Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System) has so far been successful, flowing power from the ISS to Endeavour shortly after docking.

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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