Several key NASA departments have officially recommended to the Mission Management Team (MMT) for STS-118 to continue as planned, with no repair on the damaged tile area on Endeavour’s TPS (Thermal Protection System).
This was followed by the confirmation after the MMT meeting had concluded in Houston, that the plan is to conduct a nominal EVA-4 on Saturday, despite some dissenting opinion that was aired over not placing some T-RAD/STA-54 into Endeavour’s tile cavity.
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The damage, caused when a piece of foam liberated at T+58 seconds from the 17 inch LOX feedline on Endeavour’s External Tank (ET), has been the subject of evaluations for the past number of days.
Initial analysis pointed towards Endeavour being safe to come home without any requirement of a repair, with the evaluations – including mock-up testing at the Arc Jet Facility at the Johnson Space Center – being used to confirm those findings.
After another day of analysis on Thursday, the key departments involved with presenting their finding to the MMT concluded that no repair was required, despite a some dissenting opinion from JSC Engineering.
‘At the just-concluded OPO (Orbiter Project Office) special meeting addressing the EVA TPS repair, managers decided to recommend not performing the TPS repair,’ noted one of several memos, just ahead of the MMT.
‘A number of dissenting opinions were expressed, and there were concerns that data from one of the Arc Jet tests did not look correct (maybe a bad test setup).’
Several large documents were presented to the MMT, which contained the findings of all related flight history, test article data, and thermal analysis of how Endeavour will perform during re-entry.
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While there was never a threat to the crew, the evaluations rotated around the potential processing that might have to be added to Endeavour back at KSC.
However, concerns relating to the amount of repair that might be expected have dissipated, with the orginal estimate of 12 weeks of repairs for a worst case scenario now expected to be a case of normal tile replacement processing.
Over 200 engineers took part in the MMT, hooked up over phone lines, as MMT chairman John Shannon went through the data one final time.
‘We have a very broad, cross-cut of the NASA centers. I polled every one of them and it was almost unanimous to use as-is,’ noted Shannon, after the MMT had concluded.
‘The one dissenting organization was JSC Engineering, who took a look at the potential benefits of doing a repair, and said they could not see a reason why that would cause additional damage to the orbiter – and that it was something that we should think about.’
The vast amounts of analysis involved in the days of evaluations is a sign of the post-Columbia attitude of shuttle management, leaving no stone unturned.
When asked if he was overwhelmed by the volume of date, Shannon was clear.
‘No, I love it.’
L2 users refer to the 62 page presentation on reccomendations to the MMT, downloadable on L2 – added to the additional presentations and notes, totalling over 200mb.
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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