Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Atlantis will undergo minor repair

A dropped tool during payload loading operations last week will require a repair to shuttle Atlantis after all, NASA said today.

The patch to a radiator panel inside the orbiter's left payload bay door is not expected to impact a targeted May 11 launch to the Hubble Space Telescope, said KSC spokesman Allard Beutel.

The repair, which must carefully avoid potential contamination of Hubble's highly sensitive payload, is precautionary to ensure that launch vibrations don't worsen the crack, he said.

Photographs taken Monday revealed the small surface crack, after inspections under magnification last week showed no damage beneath the radiator's metal faceplate or to delicate freon loops.

The minor damage occurred during loading of the payload into Atlantis last Wednesday when a socket fell off a wrench, grazed two employees and caused the dent.

Atlantis astronauts this afternoon had a chance to see the payload and cargo bay for themselves, conducting a walk-down of the payload at launch pad 39A in a brief final training visit before their launch.

The standard pre-launch activity wasn't possible when the crew visited earlier this month because the payload had not yet been installed.

Tests of the payload's electrical connections with the orbtier were continuing for a second day and expected to conclude this evening.

After the payload tour, mission commander Scott Altman and pilot Gregory Johnson began practicing landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft, a Gulfstream jet modified to handle like the shuttle on descent.

The entire crew, which also includes mission specialists Drew Feustel, Mike Good, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur, was expected to return to Houston in T-38 jets by this evening.

IMAGE NOTE: On Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on April 22, the equipment and hardware needed to service the Hubble Space Telescope were transferred from the payload changeout room to space shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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