Still classed as yet another clean flight for the shuttle, Endeavour’s ascent to orbit on STS-118 is undergoing the extensive evaluation process, which will confirm the health of the orbiter’s heat shield.
Flight Day 2 consists of two rendezvous burns – en route closing in on the International Space Station – and a day of inspections using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS). In tandem with the on orbit operations, technicians are pouring over thousands of ascent and External Tank images to check for foam liberation.
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The first images of the External Tank, ranging from photographs and camcorder video taken from the flight deck of Endeavour as the tank fell away from the orbiter, show that foam liberated from only a handful of locations. In all, the tank appears to have performed extremely well.
ET Umbilical Well images show that normal popcorn divots in the foam were noted on the ET aft dome and on the LH2 acreage forward of the cross beam. Ablation was noted at the foot of the LO2 feedline bracket around the Xt 1971 location of the tank. A small section of liberated foam was also noted at the foot of the LO2 feedline bracket.
Two areas of missing ET foam was also noted near the Ice Frost Ramps (IFRs) in the mid-section of the tank, while overall, the IFRs appear to have suffered hardly any foam liberation. Missing foam was also noted aft of port bipod spindle, and also aft of the starboard bipod.
During ascent, the most obvious debris event was observed via live video. This is not deemed to be a problem for the orbiter, given the event occurred outside the point of ascent where there is enough aerodynamic force to induce an impact that could damage the orbiter’s TPS.
The event, which occurred at T+177 seconds, was a single piece of debris, first seen outboard of the port bipod leg, which travels toward the fuselage, appears to contact the vehicle and falls aft.
Another event being evaluated related to a piece of ET umbilical purge material, which possibly contacted with the body flap. This event occurred at T+24 seconds into the ride uphill of Endeavour.
Later into the ascent, at T+58 seconds, a single light colored piece of debris seen near starboard inboard elevon. Debris appears to contact the vehicle (light colored spray noted two frames later. NASA have several camera angles of the potential debris strike, allowing them a wealth of data that they can use to evaluate.
**UPDATED: Ride home through the fire, sparks and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. FOUR Stunning high quality 2hr, 355-400mb Camcorder and HUD videos – from payload bay closure to post landing – several more videos showing landing from 90,000 ft also available**
Initial close up checks of Endeavour’s TPS start in earnest today, with Flight Day 2’s day of inspections. Today will utilize the OBSS on the Starboard Wing, Nose cap and Port wing surveys and OMS Pod Survey.
Overnight, the orbiter was safely flying on orbit whilst the crew slept, although their rest was interrupted by a master alarm, which sounded when Cryo O2 tank 2 Control Pressure indication noted an off scale low reading. The tank is not in use at the time and the alarm was reset.
Overall, engineers on the ground have a near empty problem list, as Endeavour – despite not flying for nearly five years – continues to perform admirably.
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