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STORY WRITTEN FOR & USED WITH PERMISSIONPosted: August 2, 2005Amid planning for an unprecedented shuttle heat-shield repair spacewalk Wednesday, engineers also are assessing the potential threat posed by a damaged insulation blanket just below commander Eileen Collins' left cockpit window. While engineers say the blanket poses no threat of heat damage during entry, there's a chance a small portion of the blanket could rip away in the lower, denser atmosphere and hit the shuttle's aft section. Credit: NASAWayne Hale, chairman of NASA's mission management team, said todayengineers earlier concluded "that even if that blanket completely came offduring entry we're perfectly safe from the local area thermal effects, thatis not a problem at all for us in that local area.""The folks who have been looking at that, of course, have been heavilyinvolved in many of the aspects of the gap filler discussion (see below),the aerodynamics and so forth. ... They're now looking at where that blanketmight go if it actually comes off during entry."The analysis is expected to be complete by Thursday."Right now, we know that in terms of the local area, it's OK," Hale saidof the damaged blanket. "This is just a question of could it fly back andhit something on the after part of the vehicle? And, in fact, the biggestwork going on, I think, is to determine whether or not it's even possiblethe blanket could come off."It appears to be well adhered in terms of the underlying RTV glue," hesaid. "And the stitching holding it down to the edges of that looks likeit's in good shape."Hale said the blanket, which measures 20.4 inches long and 3.8 incheswide, appears to have been hit by something earlier in the mission. Impactdamage of some sort is the presumed culprit, but that is merely anassumption at this point. Unlike the gap filler problem, the blanket poses athreat when the shuttle is much closer to Earth, and flying much slower. Inrelative terms, of course."This would not be a concern if it came off at high Mach number, aboveMach 6," Hale said, referring to a velocity six times greater than that ofsound. "You know, once you get to Mach 6 with the shuttle, you're just kindof putzing around. At lower Mach numbers, where the air is thicker, thenthere is some transport mechanism that folks are going to go off and lookat."They're concerned about a physical impact," he said. "The heatingconcerns rapidly go away later in the trajectory. So, this would not be ahigh-heating, high-Mach-number kind of concern. This would be a low Machnumber, impact-if-any kind of concern."He said engineers believe the largest piece that could rip away wouldweigh just 0.05 pounds or so - eight tenths of an ounce.This issue does not appear to be serious. But given the way Discovery'sflight has been proceeding, readers are urged to stay tuned.Additional coverage for subscribers:VIDEO:PRESIDENTIAL PHONE CALL VIDEO:ASTRONAUT DAVE WOLF EXPLAINS GAP FILLER REMOVAL VIDEO:TODAY'S CREW NEWS CONFERENCE VIDEO:TODAY'S STATUS BRIEFING BROADBAND & VIDEO:DECISION ANNOUNCED AT BRIEFING BROADBAND & VIDEO:GROUND TESTS ON PULLING, CUTTING GAP FILLERS VIDEO:ASTRONAUTS PREPARE FOR THE SPACEWALK VIDEO:FAILED GYRO IS REMOVED FROM THE STATION VIDEO:THE NEW GYRO IS INSTALLED VIDEO:SPACEWALKERS POSE FOR PICTURES VIDEO:MONDAY'S STATUS BRIEFING BROADBAND & VIDEO:BEHIND THE SCENES IN MISSION CONTROL DURING EVA VIDEO:MANAGEMENT TEAM UPDATE BROADBAND & VIDEO:SUNDAY'S MISSION STATUS AUDIO:LISTEN TO THE STATUS BRIEFING VIDEO:LEFT-HAND BOOSTER SEPARATION FROM TANK VIDEO:LEFT-HAND BOOSTER CHUTE DEPLOY AND SPLASHDOWN VIDEO:FULL CLIP FROM LEFT-HAND BOOSTER VIDEO:RIGHT-HAND BOOSTER SEPARATION FROM TANK VIDEO:RIGHT-HAND BOOSTER SPLASHDOWN VIDEO:FULL CLIP FROM RIGHT-HAND BOOSTER VIDEO:MANAGEMENT TEAM UPDATE VIDEO:FRIDAY'S MISSION STATUS BROADBAND AUDIO:LISTEN TO THE STATUS BRIEFING VIDEO:DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS BRIEFING BROADBAND & VIDEO:THURSDAY MISSION STATUS BRIEFING BROADBAND VERSION: & AUDIO:LISTEN TO THE MISSION STATUS BRIEFING VIDEO:BEHIND THE SCENES IN MISSION CONTROL FOR DOCKING VIDEO:SHUTTLE CREW WELCOMED ABOARD THE STATION VIDEO:COMMANDER COLLINS GUIDES DISCOVERY TO DOCKING VIDEO:DISCOVERY'S BACKFLIP AS SEEN FROM STATION VIDEO:STATION CAMERAS SEE SHUTTLE'S APPROACH FROM BELOW VIDEO:SHUTTLE PULLS IN FRONT OF STATION FOR DOCKING VIDEO:CREW'S CAMCORDER VIDEO OF JETTISONED FUEL TANK VIDEO:NASA GROUNDS SHUTTLE PROGRAM BROADBAND VERSION: & AUDIO:LISTEN TO PROGRAM NEWS CONFERENCE VIDEO:WEDNESDAY MISSION STATUS BRIEFING VIDEO:SHUTTLE FUEL TANK HITS BIRD AT LIFTOFF VIDEO:AMAZING WB-57 AERIAL LAUNCH VIDEO VIDEO:BEHIND THE SCENES IN MISSION CONTROL AT LAUNCH VIDEO:OFFICIALS DESCRIBE DEBRIS EVENTS AUDIO:LISTEN TO THE DEBRIS DESCRIPTION VIDEO:LAUNCH OF DISCOVERY! VIDEO:FOOTAGE OF OBJECT BREAKING FREE FROM TANK VIDEO:TANK-MOUNTED CAMERA SHOWS ENTIRE LAUNCH VIDEO:ONBOARD CAMERA VIEW OF TANK SEPARATION Status SummaryDiscovery safely touched down at 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT) Tuesday morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California.Weather worries off the coast of Florida thwarted both landing opportunities this morning at Kennedy Space Center, forcing a detour to the backup landing site.See the for full play-by-play coverage.Recent updates Thursday, August 407:00 AMWednesday, August 306:15 AMAres 1-X PatchThe official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.Apollo CollageThis beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.Expedition 21The official embroidered patch for the International Space Station Expedition 21 crew is now available from our stores.Hubble PatchThe official embroidered patch for mission STS-125, the space shuttle's last planned service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, is available for purchase. | | | | 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.NASA gives go-ahead to spacewalk repair work BY WILLIAM HARWOOD