Saturday, November 15, 2008

220p 11/15 Update: Heat shield inspection underway; possible insulation loss considered


Posted: 2:20 PM, 11/15/08

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Analyst

Changes and additions:

   SR-13 (11/14/08): Shuttle Endeavour roars into orbit
   SR-14 (11/15/08): Endeavour astronauts gear up for heat shield inspection
   SR-15 (11/15/08): Heat shield inspection underway; flight controllers ask astronauts to photograph area of possible insulation loss


2:20 PM, 11/15/08, Update: Heat shield inspection underway; flight controllers ask astronauts to photograph area of possible insulation loss

Flight controllers today asked the Endeavour astronauts to pause during an already planned heat-shield inspection and photograph an area near the shuttle's left-side orbital maneuvering system rocket pod where a small strip of flexible insulation might have pulled away during launch.

The heat shield inspection, using instruments on the end of a 50-foot-long boom attached to Endeavour's robot arm, began around 2:15 p.m.

"Right where the left OMS meets the body of the orbiter, we think we may have lost, during ascent, a small strip of FRSI (flexible reuseable surface insulation)," astronaut Steve Robinson radioed earlier from mission control. "Today's a great time to image that area during the port (heat shield) survey. We're putting together a little delta to the robot arm procedures. At one of the pause points, we won't change the trajectory of the arm at all, one of the pause points is just perfect and we'll just take a minute there to ... take a look at that area."

"OK, and that was where the left OMS meets the, did you say the vertical tail?" commander Chris Ferguson asked. "And we did send some pictures down yesterday of something that we saw. We weren't sure if it was ice or not, but I'm assuming you looked at those."

"Yep, those images are being analyzed now," Robinson said. "It's right where the left OMS pod meets, you know, where the big T-0 umbilical goes into the orbiter? There's kind of a strip right at the interface between those two planes."

"OK. I've got an idea where it is. Thanks."

FRSI blankets are used on the upper surfaces of the shuttle where temperatures do not exeed 700 degrees Fahrenheit during re-entry. NASA has had a few minor problems with pulled up blankets on recent missions.


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