Shuttle Fix In The Works?

By Keith Cowing
July 3, 2002
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Doug Buford, with the Aft Engine shop, works at removing a heat shield on Columbia last week, in the Orbiter Processing Facility.

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Concern has been raised within NASA, of late, as to whether the cracks identified in the liquid hydrogen flowliners in the Shuttle fleet might lead to the need to not only replace these flowliners – but to manufacture replacement hardware. If parts need to be manufactured, substantial down time – perhaps years – could be the result. In addition, it was feared that replacement would require a substantial disassembly of the aft fuselage of each orbiter – much more than is done during Space Shuttle Main Engine engine (SSME) change out – thus adding to the downtime.

Word has it that the Shuttle program has now identified enough spare parts to rectify problems identified in the Shuttle Orbiter fleet. Moreover, there is also some hope that this can be done in a less intrusive manner than first thought. One suggestion under consideration would be to take the next orbiter due for overhaul and do the repairs then and then use that vehicle to do the bulk of the lifting while the others are repaired.

Of course, there is also the hope that Endeavour will turn out to be OK once it is inspected and that it could do the bulk of the lifting while the rest of the fleet is repaired. Endeavour returned from Edwards Air Force Base last week and is undergoing inspections now.

NASA is expected to make some sort of announcement about this issue next week.

  • 2 July 2002: Space Shuttle Processing Status 2 Jul 2002, NASA KSC

  • 29 June 2002: NASA Working Overtime to Understand Shuttle Pipe Cracks, SpaceRef

  • 29 June 2002: OV103 Inspections – Eng #1 LH2 Feedline, NASA JSC (includes images)1.5 MB Powerpoint file

  • 29 June 2002: OV104 ENG#1, LH2- Flow Liner Cracks , NASA JSC 1.1 MB Powerpoint file

  • SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.