Atlantis Ascent: Opening debris images classed as nominal

by Chris Bergin

Atlantis appears to have enjoyed a relatively clean ascent during Thursday’s ride uphill, following evaluations on the opening data and imagery taken by ground tracking cameras.

STS-122’s Flight Day 2 included the opening inspections on the orbiter’s RCC panels and Thermal Protection System (TPS) – via the use of the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System). Opening results have confirmed the vehicle is “very clean”.

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Latest Updates via L2:

No significant issues: ECLSS had a Node 1 RAMV Fail caution. No impact for 1E, team will try power cycling to try to recover, then may have to have ISS crew look at it. Not an issue for the MMT charts.

SSV setup was not completed because the crew could not locate the necessary cables. This was rescheduled prior to OBSS ops today (FD2).

RMS checkout and NC2 burn completed successfully

OBSS Survey of RCC and TPS complete. Results will take a few days – opening results show a clean vehicle bar one area of interest (TPS). Deputy Shuttle Manager John Shannon notes no issues are being worked on the vehicle.

STS-122 Ascent to FD2:

All of the orbiter’s RCC (Reinforced Carbon Carbon) will be inspected during the OBSS Starboard Wing, Nose Cap, and Port Wing surveys.

The two wing surveys also cover most of the areas of the crew cabin, while the OMS pod is inspected via a handlheld camera through the aft flight deck window.

To allow adequate time for OBSS surveys, Atlantis will carry out the NC2 and NC3 rendezvous burns – used as part of the refinements to Atlantis’ closure on the International Space Station (ISS).

Ahead of Saturday’s docking, Atlantis will be commanded through the visually stunning Rbar Pitch Maneuver (RPM), which will allow the ISS crew to perform a high resolution photo survey of the lower surface TPS tiles to screen for ascent debris damage, before being downlinked for evalautions on the ground.

Opening imagery – taken by the numerous ground tracking cameras – appears to show a clean flight, despite a handful of debris events, as listed (Hi Res Images on L2):

T+16.5 Seconds: SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) Instafoam falls aft from LSRM (Left Solid Rocket Motor). This event would have been no threat to the vehicle, given its location on the stack.

T+130 Seconds: Single piece of debris (probably ET TPS) first seen aft of the left bipod leg. No contact to the vehicle noted, though the event is being classified as ‘off nominal’.

T+132 Seconds: Multiple pieces of debris are seen falling aft shortly after SRB separation. Three pieces of debris are highlighted – and subsequently mentioned to the crew. However, these are not believed to be of any concern.

T+491 Seconds: Multiple ‘spray’ of debris seen via the ET camera. Not yet classified, it is believed to be ice, visible in the image due to the position of the sun during Atlantis push downrange.

T+525 Seconds: Umbilical Ice observed travelling aft. The ice does not appear to contact the vehicle, though this was also very late into Atlantis’ flight, and thus is of no concern.

More events are likely to be forthcoming over the next few days, though these opening images point to a relatively clean flight so far.

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