No obvious problems seen during shuttle wing scans
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: October 24, 2007
The shuttle Discovery's crew used a laser scanner and a high-resolution digital camera on the end of a long boom today to inspect the ship's reinforced carbon carbon nose cap and wing leading edge panels in a now-standard exercise for post-Columbia crews.
Today's scan took on a bit of added significance because of pre-launch concern over subtle degradation in a protective coating on three of the 44 wing leading edge panels, which experience some of the most extreme heating during re-entry. While it will take another few days to complete analysis of the inspection data, nothing obvious could be seen in video downlinked from the shuttle.
"This briefing ought to be pretty short and sweet," lead flight director Rick LaBrode told reporters in a later morning status report. I'm happy to report that things are going extremely well. When the crew woke up this morning, they got started with their day, they were in outstanding spirits, it's really a pleasure to see them on the video downlink and see how happy they are and ready to get going. The vehicle is operating perfectly, we're not tracking any major issues."
Asked about the wing leading edge inspections, LaBrode said "we completed the starboard wing scan, the nose cap and the port scan was in progress, near the very end, when I left the console. And all of that was going very well."
While he did not watch the entire downlink, "I personally did not see anything of significance. The report that I heard from some of the folks in the hall was that nobody's seen anything of any significance."
He also said there was not yet any detailed update on the performance of Discovery's external tank during the climb to orbit. NASA managers said Tuesday a quick look at ascent imagery showed what appeared to be a half dozen small pieces of foam insulation falling from the tank after the shuttle's solid-fuel boosters separated two minutes into flight. By that point, the shuttle is out of the dense lower atmosphere and debris is not as much of a concern.
"As far as the foam liberation, I don't have any additional data," LaBrode said. "What I had heard was that they had seen a couple of indications (of foam releases) and they were after SRB sep, so that they really weren't in what is considered the timeframe of concern. But I don't have any additional data on that."
A briefing by Mission Management Team Chairman John Shannon is scheduled for 6 p.m.