Shuttle managers are discussing the viability of extending STS-118’s mission duration capability to 18 or 19 days – if required. The ‘long pole’ evaluation – which includes two repair related EVAs and weather wave offs – would see Endeavour smash the previous mission duration record.
All on orbit repair options are being discussed in direct relation to mitigating the potential of additional processing for Endeavour, once she’s back inside her OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility). Endeavour is deemed safe to return without the repair.
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The safe return emphasis was once again relayed to controllers by Flight Controller Matt Abbott during handover this morning, who noted: ‘the consensus in the engineering community is that it is okay to bring the orbiter home as-is if they have to. The repair is to preserve the vehicle for future missions.’
Planning for a 19 day mission is based around ensuring NASA have all the options available to them, something managers describe as the ‘long pole’ – a mission scenario where a repair to the damaged tile on Endeavour’s belly was called, with the possibility of even a fifth repair related EVA, along with weather delays (wave offs) for re-entry and landing.
None of the above may be required, with Endeavour currently able to re-enter, if it was required in an emergency situation.
However, managers will make a decision on Wednesday – following Arcjet testing on test articles, added to thermal dynamic modelling – on whether a repair is a viable option, mainly relating to protecting the processing flow for Endeavour’s next mission (STS-123) in February, 2008. Currently, a worst case scenario for Endeavour would see 12 weeks worth of repairs being carried out on her damaged area, without an on orbit fix.
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The discussions are involving all elements of mission operations for STS-118, which at present is the process of evaluating the maximum mission duration that Endeavour could achieve, should it be required.
‘Discussions of adding several more docked days. Flight wants to look into possibility of FD19 landing,’ noted NASA memos kicking off discussions after the late night Mission Management Team (MMT) meeting.
‘Flight Director briefed the planning team to identify any potential ‘long poles’ that would preclude extending the mission out to flight day 19 to cover potential contingencies for one or more EVAs to support tile repair activities (if required) plus weather delays.’
However, such an extension – even without the usual long mission duration requirement of the EDO (Extended Duration Orbiter) pallet on board – might not be possible. The success of Endeavour’s debuting of the Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS) has helped, but other constraints exist, varying from hardware on the orbiter, to the stresses on the crew’s longer stay in space.
‘MCC (Mission Control) is talking about a possible (constraint) response to clarify some old documentation indicating the maximum duration of orbiter flight as 16 days,’ added another memo. ‘Talk on the loop seems to indicate the only constraint may be a 12 knot max cross wind limit for landing on missions longer than 16 days, possibly due to diminished crew skills due to the length of the mission.
‘Discussion on possible 16+2 day mission (18 days), with note of Ku Band antennae limit of 16 days on paper, but that past flights had gone to 17 days. MER (Mission Evaluation Room) will be asked to document data and OK 1 (per 16+2 flight option.)’
Whether a repair will be carried out is still yet to be determined, and all evaluations are par for the course for NASA, who are ensuring that whatever option is taken has a ready-made plan to action.
To break the mission duration record, Endeavour needs to beat Columbia’s STS-80 record of 1996, which was a mission duration of 17 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, 18 seconds.
Following Flight Day 6’s successful EVA-2 – which saw the replacement of a faulty Control Moment Gyro – Flight Day 7’s is proceeding with the installation of ESP-3 on the P3 truss. Live, extensive coverage can be followed on the live update sections.
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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