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RETURN TO FLIGHT CHANGES - STS 114



SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR  N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468  

STS-114 TO LAUNCH 13 JULY  TO 31 JULY 2005  - 
    

The bipod that was once protected with foam now uses electric heaters. 
When the crew members of the Space Shuttle Discovery lift off later this 
year from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., they'll be supported by two 
years of hard work by tens of thousands of people determined to make the 
Space Shuttle safer. NASA has upgraded flight hardware, as well as 
visual tracking and inspection equipment, to ensure the Return to Flight 
mission is successful.

The Columbia accident revealed a major problem with the insulating foam 
that covers the External Tank. Investigators found that foam falling off 
the tank had damaged Columbia's left wing, letting superheated gases 
inside. Redesigning the External Tank became a top priority in the 
Agency's Return to Flight work.

NASA engineers made dozens of changes to the tank design, including one 
to a key mechanism that joins the External Tank with the orbiter. 
Jutting from the upper third of the tank, the "bipod fitting" is 
susceptible to icing due to the ultra-cold fuel that tank contains. 
Until the Columbia accident, the part was protected from ice buildup 
using thick sheets of foam. The improved bipod design now excludes using 
foam and instead relies on electric heaters to keep the area clear. The 
new fitting design is currently being retrofitted to the 11 existing 
tanks -- including the one chosen for Discovery's flight -- and will be 
included on those produced in the future.

Another key change to the tank involves equipment known as the LOX 
Feedline bellows. The bellows are expansion joints which allow the 
liquid oxygen (LOX) feedline to expand and contract as it carries fuel 
from the External Tank to the Orbiter. Because they move, the bellows 
aren't insulated with foam, which means ice could build up from the 
minus-297 degree fuel, creating a debris risk. NASA is adding a heater 
to the area and installing a foam "drip-lip" that prevents condensation 
from building up and freezing (+ Read More).

At Kennedy Space Center, NASA has upgraded the short-, medium-, and 
long-range tracking camera system around the Center's launch pads 39A 
and 39B, along with those lining the nearby Atlantic coastline. The 
addition of nine more camera sites will provide unprecedented views of 
Discovery's launch, allowing engineers to clearly observe the flight 
high into the sky.

Discovery itself also received new imaging equipment with the 
installation of a digital External Tank camera and new "Canadarm" 
inspection boom.

Making the most of current consumer photography equipment, the orbiter's 
External Tank camera has been switched from film to a digital model. 
Located in the rear underbelly of the orbiter, the camera is similar to 
a standard 35 mm model and snaps a series of photos as the tank 
separates from the orbiter. With the previous film camera, flight 
engineers had to wait until Discovery landed to retrieve the negatives 
and develop photos. With the simplicity and increased speed of a digital 
system, the image files will be easily transmitted back to Earth shortly 
after Discovery reaches space.

WA3NAN if it re-broadcasts the shuttle mission will use any  the 
following frequencies: 3.860, 7.185, 14.295, 21.395 & 28.650
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