Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Live in orbit: analysts examining nicked tiles

Analysts at Johnson Space Center in Houston have spotted some nicks to heat shields on Atlantis near where the right wing meets up with the fuselage.

They do not think the area, which is covered by thick tiles, is likely to require a more detailed "focused" inspection, but told Atlantis commander Scott Altman just after 2 p.m. that he may need to try again to download launch imagery from a shuttle camera that couldn't be beamed down before.

The nicks apparently came from some debris believed to have struck the area 104 seconds into flight after Monday's 2:01 p.m. liftoff from Kennedy Space Center. A sensor on the starboard wing's leading edge also recorded a hit matching that profile around the same time.

"At this point the preliminary assessment is that it doesn't look very serious," spacecraft communicator Dan Burbank told Altman from Houston. "Those tiles are pretty thick. The nicks look to be pretty small."

"Everybody is feeling pretty good that it's not something particularly serious, we just want to make sure we do the right thing and complete all the analysis," he added.

"Appreciate the due diligence and working that," Altman replied.

The matter could be discussed further at an mission status briefing coming up at 2:30 p.m.

You can watch it live by clicking on the NASA TV picture on the right side of this page to launch a viewer.

IMAGE NOTE: NASA presented the images above during a 5 p.m. EDT press briefing following the Mission Management Team's Tuesday afternoon meeting.

1 comment:

Mark Lopa said...

Amazing how MSNBC is posting a story that Atlantis was "damaged" during launch and that Endeavour is being readied in case a rescue is needed. First, the damage is extremely minimal, and Endeavour was being readied anyway. They make it seem like one has to do with the other and that this is an emergency.

You gotta love the American press...trying to make news instead of report it.