Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Shuttle Storm Damage Review Amid More Storms

A NASA engineering review board is set to evaluate the impact of last week's storms on shuttle Endeavour as another band of severe weather approaches the Kennedy Space Center.

Severe thunderstorms are sweeping through the Titusville area, heading east over the Indian River toward NASA's shuttle homeport. The thunderstorms, lightning and hail will stall work at launch pad 39A, where Endeavour is being prepped for a planned April 29 launch.

Storms last week caused minor damage to the foam insulation on Endeavour's external tank, and engineers tested all electrical systems on the spacecraft to make certain lightning did no damage.

NASA managers, meanwhile, are reworking the schedule for launch preparations as a result of the 10-day delay in Endeavour's launch.

The U.S. and its International Space Station partners delayed the launch to clear the way for a previously scheduled Progress space freighter flight that is slated for launch April 27 with an arrival at the station on April 29.

Endeavour now is scheduled to launch at 3:47 p.m. April 29. The launch time is subject to change due to a potential reboost of the station.

An agency-level Flight Readiness Review now is scheduled for April 19.

Engineers and technicians completed the loading of toxic hydrazine fuel into the hydraulic power units that provide the power needed to steer the nozzles of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters.

The installation of small pyrotechnic charges on the shuttle has been put off until April 18. The charges are used to separate Endeavour from its launcher platform, solid rocket boosters and external tank in flight.

An end-to-end electrical test of the shuttle's prime payload -- the Alpha Magnetic Spectromter -- will be performed on Wednesday.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of workers performing a walk-down inspection of Endeavour after last week's severe storms over launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. A frontal system moved through Central Florida producing strong winds, heavy rain, frequent lightning and even funnel clouds. During detailed inspections, technicians and engineers found only minor damage to Endeavour's external fuel tank foam insulation and evaluations indicate there was no damage to the spacecraft. An engineering review board is examining findings from post-storm inspections today. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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