Problems with the space shuttle (1 Viewer)

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hbk409

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NASA grounds shuttle fleet
Falling debris during liftoff draws concern

Wednesday, July 27, 2005; Posted: 8:53 p.m. EDT (00:53 GMT


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- There will be no more shuttle launches until NASA engineers determine the effect of the debris that fell from the shuttle Discovery during blastoff Tuesday, said space shuttle program manager Bill Parsons.

"We are treating it very seriously," he told reporters. "Are we losing sleep over it? Not yet."

He added, "We will continue to do the evaluation."

Discovery is due to return to Kennedy Space Center August 7. A date for the next planned mission has not been set.

Earlier Wednesday NASA lead flight director Paul Hill said that, based on engineers' "first-blush" analysis of falling debris, there was "no significant problem" with the orbiting shuttle.

Hill spoke to reporters after astronauts, using a robotic arm equipped with a camera and laser, spent "one hell of a day" poring over every inch of Discovery for surface damage.

Of the Discovery's seven-member crew, three spent the entire day operating the 50-foot robotic arm and its 50-foot boom extension. Other members who had a spare moment from their tasks "were also there helping to look out the windows and look at camera views," Hill said.

NASA was analyzing data from the launch and from the robotic arm to decide what steps to take next.

"We should start seeing the jury coming in on those decisions by the end of the crew's day tomorrow," Hill said.

Although the search for damage was already included as part of the mission, video from an array of cameras raised concerns after showing a piece of debris falling away from the orbiter's underside during Tuesday's liftoff.

NASA officials said the debris could have broken off from a tile near a door covering the nose landing gear. Space shuttles have shed tile during previous missions without consequences.

But falling debris from the shuttle Columbia during its ascent was blamed for damaging the craft -- and its ultimate destruction upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members in February 2003.

The disaster prompted NASA to ground the shuttle fleet and make safety-related activities a priority.

NASA flight operations manager John Shannon said the debris that broke off may be the tile covering rather than the tile itself. He said that initial estimates show it was about 1.5 inches long.

Footage from Discovery's launch also showed a piece of debris falling from the external fuel tank at the time it separated from the orbiter. That debris did not strike the orbiter, he said.

Footage also showed that the external fuel tank's nose cone hit a bird about 2.5 seconds after liftoff -- when Discovery was probably traveling too slowly to sustain any damage, he said.

As the orbiter approaches the international space station for a scheduled Thursday 7:18 a.m. ET docking, the station's crew will photograph Discovery to look further for any damage.

Shuttle crew members plan to test repair techniques during three scheduled space walks by astronauts Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi of Japan. The astronaut pair also plans to service the space station.

Since Columbia, NASA has developed contingency plans for astronauts to try to repair damaged shuttles so they can return to Earth. In the event a spacecraft cannot be repaired, plans call for the crew to take refuge in the space station until a rescue mission can be launched.
 
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Mark_AR

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Well there goes the disclaimer...

No animals were harmed in the lauch of this mission... :D

PETA will be on NASA about one dead tweety bird.

Although I can recall seeing several hawks or other big birds perched on the launchpad assembly when the O2 vent arm was being retracted, so there was probably more than one toasted during the launch.

I am assuming the next step will be a spacewalk to visually inspect any places of concern and to try out their new patch kit.

Commander Eileen Collins was heard remarking... I thought *you* brought the can of 'Fix-A-Tile'
 

Neutron

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Its interesting that over 100 shuttle flights so far they are just now determining that this is a problem....
 

Stargazer

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I am very surprised that they do not have two or more layers of tiles to protect such an expensive shuttle that can be so sensitive to entering the atmosphere.
 

Foxbat

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I always wondered why they foam the outside of the tank. Seems with the advances in materials science that the ET could be made from a carbon fiber-foam-carbon/Kevlar fiber shell. But, barring that, maybe if NASA would embed a Kevlar mesh in the last layer of foam, it would hold together better under launch conditions.
 

Chado

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I always wonder if technology has caught up to us on this one. How many launches have their been in the past where this has actually happened and we just didn't know about it?? The technology is so good that NASA can see everything about the shuttle structurally. I wonder if that has always been the case.
 

Bob Haller

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Shuttle was designed in the 70s, and largely design has been static since then.

Impossible to insulate inside of tank, imgine minor debris getting in engine that turns at 10,000 RPM.

They TRIED making small carbon fuel tanks, after a bunch of tries it failed/

Debris were always a hazard, they just didnt realize how bad it was.

shuttle should be converted to remote control and used unmanned for cargo only, or at most carry one pilot with a ejection seat for launch boost escape.

if it flies again more will die. its filled with bad wiring
 
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Foxbat

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Bob,
I didn't mean have uncovered foam exposed to propellant, but to layer the faom between two layers of CF. However, since it's been tried, I guess that's why I don't work for NASA...

BTW, did anyone else catch the replay of the SRB cams? Complete with audio, too. It was interesting to see all the little holes showing up in the foam before the SRBs separated from the ET. The foam seemed to be "cooking" from the aerodynamic drag, weakening it.

Other neat thing: You could hear the empty SRB shells "whistle" as they spun around, reentering the thicker atmosphere.
 

Bob Haller

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Theres another tile problem that may require a spacewalk. Its possibly very serious, and if not handled properly could cause another columbia disaster.

its time to ground it permanetely, after 2.5 years the fopam shedding hasnt been fixed
 
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