Protecting STS-120’s five EVAs – NASA plan glove contingency

by Chris Bergin

Extra gloves, and forward plan for a special protective layer, have been added to the STS-120 manifest, as NASA ensures there’s adequate protection for the upcoming five spacewalks.

Cut glove incidents on two recent spacewalks – the latest on STS-118, which caused an early end to an EVA – has also seen the inclusion of “over glove” protection being added, a modification to the gloves that will be phased in over the next three flights.

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The most recent incident came during STS-118, when Endeavour spacewalker Rick Mastracchio suffered a glove incident, live on NASA TV. The incident called for the early termination of EVA-3, though the spacewalker was never in any danger. The damage was later confirmed as being caused by ‘contact with a sharp edge.’

Mastracchio’s problem with the damaged EMU glove came during only the second mission since new procedures were brought in for checking the gloves of spacewalkers during an EVA. This came about after damage was seen on Robert ‘Beamer’ Curbeam’s EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) gloves, once STS-116 had landed.

The subject of much discussion for managers of NASA and the United Space Alliance (USA), the plan of protection for spacewalkers is paramount in the agency’s mindset, with the topic set to receive a final overview as a special topic at the upcoming Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR).

‘Feel have adequate rationale for cut glove for EVA on Shuttle and Station. Will likely be special topics at FRR,’ noted recent Shuttle Stand-up/Integration reports.

‘Wrapped up second round of crew evaluations for over glove design for STS-120. Crew consensus was redesign is acceptable. Will fly glove as is with tweaks, and leave in locker unless circumstances necessitate using it.’

The protective layer, will be provided on new gloves in areas that receive the most ‘wear and tear’ – acting as a patch. The plan is to continue to use EVA experience to find a final solution to what will be modified EMU gloves.

On STS-120, extra gloves have been added to the manifest, in the event they are required as spares – or back-ups – during the five EVAs that will be conducted during the mission.

‘Contingency EMU Gloves: The additional EMU gloves are in response to the damage to the EMU glove that occurred on STS-118. Investigation of the damaged glove post STS-118 reveals that the damage is a cut,’ noted a PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) presentation.

‘The cut indicates an unknown sharp edge near a translation path or on a piece of hardware handled by EVA crewmembers. The additional gloves provide contingency capability in the event an EMU glove is damaged to ensure the completion of the EVA assembly requirements. These gloves are in addition to the backup gloves that are already flying.

‘Contingency gloves are being provided on STS-120/10A and Stage 10A for crewmembers performing three EVAs. Add Three (3) pair of EMU Gloves. Contingency gloves for Parazynski, Whitson, Tani.’

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As a forward plan, the over glove modification should be ready in time for next year’s STS-123. While the modification may not be deemed as required, NASA isn’t taking any chances when it comes to the safety of their spacewalkers.

‘At the JPRCB (Joint Program Requirements Control Board) meeting was a discussion on the EMU glove damage risk mitigation. The EVA project proposed three solutions to reducing the catastrophic risk of cutting an EMU glove,’ noted a NASA HQ memo, written by Flight Director Cathy Koerner.

‘The first, long term solution, was a TMG redesign that is expected to take a year to design and implement. The second, was an interim solution to patch the high wear areas on the glove. This is expected to be ready by STS-123. The third proposal was to fly a modified Over Glove on STS-120.

‘This glove was still in testing at the time of the presentation. It did however, show promise in preliminary testing. The board agreed to fly the gloves but gave an action to XA and MOD to determine under what criteria the over glove would be used.’

Meanwhile, Discovery has been continuing pad processing ahead of the October 23 launch date – a date which remains very tight with no contingency now remaining in the flow after shuttle managers decided to proceed with the postponed APU (Auxiliary Power Units) hot fire next Thursday. Weekend preparations have included hyper loading of the power units.

Minor IPRs (Interim Problem Reports) have been generated during the pad flow – as is usual in pre-launch processing – with the main issue relating to the continued monitoring of a ‘leak’ on the Solid Rocket Boosters. It is believed that the leak is from ground support equipment, rather than the boosters themselves.

‘SRB hydraulics picked up IPR for hydraulic fluid observed dripping down RSRB nozzle (2 trails) and LSRB nozzle (1 trail). Fluid is believed to be dried hydraulic fluid from GSE couplers that were temporarily connected to the aft skirt while performing the SRB hydraulic frequency response tests (FRT).

‘This condition has been seen before when booster hydraulic leak checks and bleed operations were taken to the pad. Samples taken for analysis. No leaks observed during high pressure leak checks yesterday morning however the system will continue to be monitored per nominal procedure.’

Sunday also sees the STS-120 crew – led by commander Pam Melroy – arrive at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for next week’s TCDT (Terminal Count Demonstration Test), a scheduled process that is used as a dress rehearsal for the launch countdown.

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