Spaceflight Now: Orbiter Overhaul

The Columbia weight loss plan
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: April 14, 2000

  Flipper doors
Wheel well
The older flipper doors are removed from Columbia's wings as seen in top photo. Below workers remove the heavier tape in the wheel wells. Photos: Spaceflight Now
 
Columbia was the first shuttle built to fly into space and it was the heaviest. In comparison, Columbia is 8,000 pounds heavier than Endeavour, the newest shuttle built in the early 90s.

But efforts are underway to lose some excess pounds on Columbia like removing gauges and data-collecting equipment used on the shuttle's first four test flights in 1981 and 1982.

The sensors were flown to gather information about how the shuttle performed during the daring missions, ultimately allowing NASA to declare the space shuttle operational.

The equipment, however, hasn't been used since and now NASA wants it taken out while the Boeing technicians have the shuttle ripped apart. About 1,000 pounds shall be removed, equaling the additional amount of cargo Columbia will be able to launch.

Replacing so-called flipper doors on the shuttle's wings with new aluminum ones will also make additional weight savings. Each wing had 15 of the 40-pound doors; the aluminum doors weigh only 16 pounds each.

Even the aluminized tape covering the inside of the shuttle's wheel wells is being replaced. The new mirror-like thermal tape saves 37 pounds.

Next story: Finishing the job

Columbia VR
Step aboard the space shuttle Columbia for a virtual reality tour of the spaceship midway through its maintenance and modification period.

Report contents
Spaceship dry-docked

Tip to tail checkout

Mired in wire

21st-century cockpit

Midlife makeover

Finishing the job

Flying into the future

Birthplace of the shuttle
Special report home


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