Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Update on Discovery

NASA managers are getting together today to discuss launch readiness of Discovery. One topic will be the cracks in the coating of the leading wing edge panels:
While the astronauts practiced for launch, shuttle program managers held two days of meetings in advance of today's review. One of the topics discussed before the conclusion of last week's program review involved the reinforced carbon-carbon, or RCC, on Discovery's wing leading edge panels. In the past, there have been post-flight indications that the edges of a couple of panels have lost small amounts of their upper-level coating. Thermography, or thermal imagery, has been used to inspect the panels in order to identify any internal defects that could lead to coating loss.

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center has been working with shuttle engineers to better understand the potential causes of coating loss. At last Wednesday's meeting, the center recommended replacing three of Discovery's 44 panels.

Discovery has flown at least twice with these panels in the current condition, and with no indications of degradation based on thermography. At this point, the Space Shuttle Program has determined that Discovery's astronauts can safely carry out their mission without having to replace the panels.

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