Board issues tile repair recommendation
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 27, 2003
As expected, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board today released an interim recommendation requiring NASA to develop a capability to inspect the shuttle's heat shield system in orbit and to repair any significant damage that might be found.
The recommendation is the third issued by the CAIB in advance of its final report, expected around July 23, to give NASA as much time as possible to respond and to minimize the downtime before shuttle flights can resume. Two other preliminary recommendations were released April 17. One requires NASA to develop tools for evaluating the strength and integrity of heat-shield tiles and leading edge panels and the other requires NASA to obtain routine on-orbit imagery of the shuttle to look for signs of damage.
A detailed status report covering NASA's ongoing work to develop an on-orbit tile repair capability was posted on the Current Mission page June 20. Here is the text of today's interim recommendation from the CAIB:
An inspection and repair capability is fundamental to improving the ability of the orbiter to experience TPS damage without catastrophic consequences.
This effort does not reduce the urgency or importance of aggressively reducing all sources of potential damage to the orbiter. Only by reducing the likelihood of damage to the orbiter, as well as developing the ability to detect and repair damage, can the maximum safety improvement be realized.
During the STS-107 flight and investigation, the lack of repair capability was cited repeatedly, and may have been a factor in decisions made during the STS-107 mission, including the decision not to seek images which might have assisted in the assessment of damage resulting from the foam strike on ascent.
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