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NASA Space Science

NASA's Atlantis Ready For June 8 Launch 52

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the back-in-action dept.
lifuchi writes "The guys and girls at NASA are at it again with Atlantis. The newly repaired space shuttle is set launch on June 8. The hail-damaged fuel tank has been repaired and is said to be a bit of an eyesore. Zee News is quoted as saying, 'Instead of being a uniform orange, it has a patchwork of white spots where technicians sprayed, scraped and filled fresh foam into the more than 4200 areas that were damaged during a freak hailstorm in February.'"
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NASA's Atlantis Ready For June 8 Launch

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  • by 3D-nut (687652) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @11:45AM (#19096613)
    This is utter madness. We just lost 7 people and an orbiter because a piece of foam broke off and hit the thermal tiles. We have yet to figure out how to keep any foam from coming off (short of adding so much weight that the shuttle could not carry a useful payload) and now NASA plans to use a tank with thousands of known weak points, when for $10 million or so (about 1/30th of a launch budget?) they could use a good one? I think that criminal charges will be appropriate, right up to the administrator, if we lose Atlantis due to foam coming off the tank.
  • orbiter simulator? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oni (41625) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @11:49AM (#19096637) Homepage
    Did anyone else notice that the picture in the story appears to be a screenshot from Orbiter Spaceflight Simulator [orbitersim.com]? (it's free by the way, and very cool)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2007 @11:49AM (#19096643)
    The foam will not come apart as easy if it was painted. They figured that out during the testing. the paint film reduces turbulance and also provides a bit of surface adhesion that can make up for errors on surface adhesion.

  • Re:Scary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @01:04PM (#19097319) Homepage
    ET-124 (the external tank currently attached to Atlantis) is going to fly - period, as there aren't any spare tanks in the pipeline. With a limited number of flights left on the manifest, and a hard end-of-life deadline for the Orbiters, the contracts for the ET and it's components are already being allowed to expire. (Not to mention the need to start converting the Michoud facility from producing the ET over to producing the Porklauncher V [wikipedia.org].)
     
    Thus, the question isn't which tank will be used to fly STS-117, but rather where ET-124 can be inserted into the sequence with the least impact on schedule, budget, and safety. (I know that many folks think the last should be the absolute overriding priority - but NASA has to live in the real world, not a fantasy one.)
     
    The only real option is to repair ET-124, as shipping it back to Michoud for a complete replacement of its foam on the forward ogive isn't in the cards due to expense and schedule impact. Unstacking Atlantis and swapping ET-124 for a different tank doesn't make the repairs any easier, and increases the risk of damaging the various parts of the stack during handling. (The last is an important consideration, and one not often realized by the armchair astronaut. Every time you break (or make) a connection, or hoist something into the air, you risk damaging it.) It also potentially effects the schedule for two flights, STS-117 and whichever flight 'donates' the tank.
     
    Thus it breaks down as follows; Rework is not in the cards due to the vast expense and schedule impact. Since there is no option to not fly ET-124, where is the best place to repair it? Repairing it at the Cape seems the best option - as you avoid the risks and expense of transporting to and from Michoud. (The repairs will be done by the same people in any instance.) If the repair is done at the Cape - it doesn't make any sense to destack the Orbiter, as doing so will not make the repair easier and increases the risk of damage to system components during handling. Equally, since -117 can be rescheduled as a unit, and other flights moved as a unit, it makes sense to retain the stack and avoid the nasty complexity of swapping hardware between flights.

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