Shuttle Atlantis has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Flight day 3 of STS-122.
Prior to docking, Atlantis was commanded through the Rbar Pitch Maneuver (RPM), which will check of any anomalies on her Thermal Protection System (TPS). One area of interest – a protruding blanket on her starboard OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) Pod – will receive special attention.
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STS-122: Hose related news content (all exclusives): *Issue found/fleet to be checked (December)* – *Atlantis found to have problem* – *Managers discuss forward plan* – *Use of pole to aid retract* – *Successful Retraction*
STS-122’s EVA-1 has been delayed by 24 hours, possibly due to an illness involving spacewalker Hans Schlegel. The mission will be – as a result – extended by one day.
Focused Inspections called for the OMS Pod blanket damage. (New article pending).
Following Flight Day 2’s Inspections via the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System), the RPM allows for a high resolution photo survey of Atlantis’ TPS, allowing a complete picture on the health of the heat shield.
The nine minute maneuver was debuted on STS-114’s Return To Flight mission, following months of planning by shuttle experts at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).
They were tasked with the limitations on crew and sensor visibility, maneuvers conducted about an unstable orbital stationkeeping position, inherently unstable attitude dynamics, thruster plume impingement on the ISS, shuttle propellant limitations, and a very tight set of lighting and geometry constraints for the inspection photography.
ISS crewmembers used their DCS-760 digital still cameras with 400 and 800mm lenses at SM windows 6 and 8 to take target imagery. Once downloaded to the ground, technicians will check every inch, in finite detail.
One area of interest has been noted from the opening inspections on Flight Day 2, a peeled back/protruding blanket on Atlantis’ starboard OMS Pod. High Resolution images will be taken via the RPM, allowing for further evaluation on the ground.
This is not unusual, with multiple flights over the lifetime of the shuttle program observing such issues with the OMS Pod blankets and adjoining tiles, notably in the area the blankets are stitched to the tiles on the Pod.
It was also Atlantis that suffered from a protruding piece of blanket during STS-117 on her port OMS Pod. That required a special EVA to ‘prod’ the blanket back down, stitched into place by spacewalker Danny Olivas during EVA-3.
Utilizing the tools that were selected by NASA technicians and engineers on the ground, Olivas used a surgical stapler to punch in 12 staples over the joint between the offending and neighbouring blanket, adding another 18 staples along the top to secure it into place.
Finishing the job involved placing several TPS pins, pushed through the blanket to secure against the tiles. It’s too early to tell if STS-122 will require a special EVA, with evaluations continuing and further data being gained now the RPM has been completed.
The crew will be asked to take further images, via a 400mm camera, of the blanket, to add to the engineering debate.
Another issue under evaluation is on a tile near the Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS):
‘Tile substrate is exposed. Damage is adjacent to thruster thermal barrier on FRCS. On the upper surface this is in the area which has no criteria,’ noted information on L2. ‘Tile is Damaged Adjacent to Thruster Thermal Barrier.’
Also spotted in the latest images is an event at SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) ignition on Thursday, where an entire tile on Left (Port) OMS Pod Stinger liberated away from the vehicle.
More to follow during Flight Day 3.
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