Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Live at KSC: Atlantis launch damaged pad 39A

Blogger update: corrected at 11:30 a.m.
Monday's launch of shuttle Atlantis blew a 25-square-foot section of material off a flame trench deflector at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A.

Engineers are assessing the damage, but don't believe it impacted Atlantis and don't expect it to delay a targeted June 13 launch of Endeavour to the International Space Station, according to a KSC spokeswoman.

Endeavour is now sitting on pad 39B, ready to serve as a rescue shuttle if Atlantis sustains serious damage on its launch to the Hubble Space Telescope. But assuming Atlantis is OK, Endeavour is scheduled to roll around to pad 39A on May 29.

That would allow pad 39B to the north to be handed over to NASA's Constellation program, which later this summer plans the first test flight of the rocket being designed to return astronauts to space after the shuttle's retirement next year.

The damaged flame trench area, discovered during preliminary inspections soon after the 2:01 p.m. liftoff, had been covered with a flame-resistant, concrete-like material called "Fondu Fyre."

The damage was located on the north side of the solid rocket booster flame deflector, near an area that was repaired after the launch of Discovery's STS-120 mission on Oct. 23, 2007.

Some gaseous nitrogen and pressurized air lines were damaged and will need to be replaced.

A different part of the flame trench was damaged by Discovery's STS-124 launch last May 31. That event tore off an estimated 3,540 flame-retardant bricks and cost $2.7 million to repair.

The flame trench is a 490-foot trough, 42 feet deep and 58 feet wide, that deflects flame from the shuttle's two solid rocket boosters and three main engines.

IMAGE NOTE: Click to enlarge the image above showing clouds of smoke and steam fill launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as space shuttle Atlantis soars into clouds above atop twin columns of fire. Atlantis will rendezvous with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on the STS-125 mission. Liftoff was on time at 2:01 p.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connell. Update: NASA presented the second image during a 5 p.m. press briefing that followed the Mission Management Team's Tuesday afternoon meeting.


Anonymous said...

Is this a repeat of damage from a previous flight?

I thought they had fixed the Flame Trench a while ago.

Rick Steele
Sarasota, Florida

James Dean said...

Rick -- parts of the flame trench were damaged after STS-120 in 2007 and after STS-124 last year. The new damage is next to the area that was fixed in 2007. It is not the same area that was repaired extensively last year, as I initially thought.

Anonymous said...

Milk that Govt Social Program for all it's worth!


I work out there and any excuse we can get to keep the money rolling in the better. Borrow it from China for all I care as long as I don't get laid off.

Anonymous said...

You don't work out here.

Duh...cause your posts are constantly illogical,
repetitive and without any basic understanding for
the benefits of the space program and our internationsl cooperative partners.

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