[FPSPACE] Reuters report that NASA may attempt to fly Shuttle
without all fixes in place....
eagle267 at svol.net
Sun Jun 20 10:58:28 EDT 2004
Isn't this a prescription for disaster?
NASA Ponders Shuttle Flight Without Two Key Changes
Fri Jun 18, 2004 06:41 PM ET
By Broward Liston
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA is considering whether it can return its space shuttles to flight without making two safety improvements that have so far proved to be high hurdles for agency engineers, top officials said on Friday.
After the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas last year and killed the seven astronauts aboard, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board drafted a lengthy list of ambitious reforms.
Among other proposals, the board recommended NASA come up with a way to repair damage to the leading edge of a shuttle's wing, such as the kind that doomed Columbia in 2003.
It also said NASA should develop a way to inspect the underside of the shuttles for damage during the second day of flight. Columbia flew for 16 days without the crew or ground controllers knowing of the fatal hole that was out of sight from crew-compartment windows.
NASA engineers are working on a repair kit that could fix a large hole in a shuttle wing's leading edge. They are also trying to build a boom to inspect the orbiter's underside.
The tasks have proved challenging, so the space agency is considering whether it can launch the shuttles without those two upgrades.
Deputy Associate Administrator Michael Kostelnik stressed no decisions have been made.
In any case, NASA is committed to a plan that would supply the International Space Station with enough food, water and oxygen that a stranded shuttle crew could live there until a rescue shuttle reached them 85 to 90 days later.
The shuttle Discovery is scheduled for launch between March 6 and April 18, 2005, on a mission that will test many improvements made since the loss of the Columbia.
"We will have changed more things on these vehicles than we've changed on any flight since STS-1," the first shuttle flight in 1981, Kostelnik said.
NASA is removing the orange foam from the area of the external tank that broke off 81 seconds after liftoff and damaged Columbia's wing, so officials said they were hopeful they would never have to deal with such a large hole again.
The foam, designed to keep ice from forming on the outside of the tank, will be replaced by heaters.
There would also be repair kits available to fix smaller cracks or holes up to 4 inches (10 cm) across.
As for the inspection, NASA would rely on a visual examination made by astronauts with cameras aboard the space station. That requires the shuttle to slowly spin around in space as cameras whir aboard the station before docking.
"Of all the things we have on the table, this rotation pitch maneuver is probably the best understood, and we've got the highest confidence in it," deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said.
The final decision on safety measures will not be left to the shuttle program managers. An independent panel headed by retired astronauts Tom Stafford and Richard Covey will have to decide whether NASA is in full compliance with the investigation board's recommendations.
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