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  Shuttle wing breach(es) before STS-107

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Author Topic:   Shuttle wing breach(es) before STS-107
garymilgrom
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posted 02-02-2009 06:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've just read "a large hole in a wing with partial melting of the structure"* happened on STS-51D. After some research I can find no mention of this incident. Reports of this flight mention a hydrazine fire, locked brake and blown tire on landing but nothing about a foam strike (my words) on ascent causing wing damage during re-entry.

Anyone heard anything differently?

*Societal Impact of Spaceflght. Two part PDF. Page 75 of part 1.

webhamster
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posted 02-02-2009 10:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webhamster   Click Here to Email webhamster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also seem to remember reading about something similar happening on one of the STS-9x flights but I can't for the life of me find that reference again.

cspg
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posted 02-03-2009 12:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After the vehicle had rolled to a stop, a burned-out basketball-sized gash was evident on a control flap. This had been caused by the loss of a heat shield tile and the resulting high temperatures that followed.
From: "Space Shuttle Log, The First 25 Flights" by Gene Gurney and Jeff Forte, Tab Books, 1988, 1st ed. (ISBN 0-8306-8390-9), p168.

Also mentioned on p325 of Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1985: A Chronology (NASA SP-4025).

Couldn't find other reference in other books... Apparently not everything has been written on the shuttle and its missions...

webhamster
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posted 02-03-2009 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webhamster   Click Here to Email webhamster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by webhamster:
I also seem to remember reading about something similar happening on one of the STS-9x flights but I can't for the life of me find that reference again.

I found it. It was STS-101 as reported by MSNBC. That's probably why I couldn't find it last night because it was stuck in my head as a 9x flight.

ilbasso
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posted 02-03-2009 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This interesting paper notes that STS-51D had a TPS failure/burnthrough on the left hand outboard elevon.

There are some other interesting "near misses" - hardware, software, and human - mentioned in this paper that I was not previously aware of.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-07-2009 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As I recall, it wasn't a full breah (no plasma entered the wing). But the RCC did get dented and cracked on one panel. It wasn't an open hole though. To my knowledge though, that was the only other incident of RCC damage prior to 107. Other issues involved the HRSI tiles when it came to TPS breaches.

On top, STS-9 did suffer close to a breach on one of its OMS pods due to a disruption of the plasma flow on the nose (near the liquid waste discharge chutes, remember the piss sickle on the first Discovery flight?). The front of the pod did suffer a burn through and was close to breaching one of the tanks in the front of the pod if I recall correctly. The fix NASA came up with for that was to put LRSI and HRSI tile on the front of the pods (hence the black patches on the fronts of the pods) when further windtunnel testing showed that a disruption of the shape of the nose around the water discharge chutes could result in a hot spot of plasma flow getting too close to a pod.

As for where I got that information, I don't recall it being written up, but the story was relayed to me by Randy Avera, an engineer at KSC who worked in the shuttle program until about 1991. He was involved with the testing of the new pod TPS configuration.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-07-2009 02:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting information Jay. I always wondered why they added those black tiles to the front of the OMS pods.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-07-2009 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No problem. The reason I was asking about it was to find out the reason for the tiles on the front of the pods for a shuttle modelers resource book I was working on. Then the topic of STS-9 came up. There was about two years of TPS evolution on the OMS pods that came up as they went from LRSI tiles on the front and FRSI on the sides to more FRSI. Then on Challenger they tried an all AFRSI covered pod, but they encountered some strange aeropressure issues that shreaded the blankets right in front. Finally they settled on the HRSI, LRSI and AFSI configuration they use today. Funny thing is the LRSI tiles in front were put there more for their resistance to impact damage as opposed to heat resistance.

issman1
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posted 02-07-2009 07:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I recall didn't STS-27 suffer extensive TPS damage on its fuselage during SRB separation? I'm not certain, but the crew did not think they would survive re-entry.

ilbasso
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posted 02-07-2009 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
If I recall didn't STS-27 suffer extensive TPS damage on its fuselage during SRB separation? I'm not certain, but the crew did not think they would survive re-entry.
A review panel found that the likely cause was insulating material from the right-hand solid rocket booster nose cap hitting the orbiter 85 seconds into the flight. The crew noticed some of the damage during the flight, and used one of the RMS cameras to show it to Mission Control. However, due to the low resolution of the camera, mission control couldn't see the damage, and pronounced it acceptable. Upon landing, over 700 damaged tiles were found, and one tile was missing.

You may recall that there was a missing tile or two on STS-1's port OMS pod, which was visible as soon as they opened up the payload bay doors. I remember we (the public, fed by the media) being very concerned about Columbia's chances of making it back.

ilbasso
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posted 02-07-2009 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Remembering the missing tile just made me look up STS-1, and it looks like there were breaches and other problems, too, that I had not realized: (quotes from Wikipedia)

During reentry, a protruding tile gap filler ducted hot gas into the right main landing gear well, which caused significant damage including buckling of the landing gear.

Also, a tile next to the right-hand External Tank (ET) door on the underside of the shuttle was incorrectly installed, leading to excessive re-entry heating and melting of part of the ET door latch.

Inspection by astronauts while in orbit showed significant damage to the thermal protection tiles on the OMS/RCS pods at the orbiter aft end, and John Young reported that two tiles on the nose looked like someone took 'big bites out of them'.

Post-flight inspection of Columbia's heat shield revealed that an overpressure wave from the Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) ignition resulted in the loss of 16 tiles and damage to 148 others.

The same overpressure wave pushed the body flap below the main engines at the rear of the shuttle well past the point where damage to the hydraulic system would be expected, which would have made a safe re-entry impossible. The crew were unaware of this until after the flight, and John Young reportedly said that if they had been aware of the potential damage at the time, they would have flown the shuttle up to a safe altitude and ejected. Columbia would have been lost on the first flight.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-07-2009 10:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was one other bit of hidden damage on Columbia during STS-1 as well. Just prior to STS-2 when the forward RCS module was being readied for installation on Columbia, an inspector noticed a slight distortion to one of the flanges. It was projected that if the FRCS module had been installed, it likely the flange would have failed at launch and ruptured the hypergolic lines, resulting in Columbia's nose being aglow in orange hypergolic flames and resulting in the crew having to eject.

The reason for the damage was not necessarily due to the overpressure wave, but rather a split second mis-timing in when the SRBs fired. The ignition of the SRBs is times so that when the shuttle twangs foreward and then back after SSME ignition, the SRBs fire when the orbiter is pure vertical. If it is off slightly, the result can be bending loads, as what happened here.

Concerning TPS tiles, part of the reason for the false sense of security with Columbia on STS-107 was due to how well the TPS survived damage on these previous occassions (especially STS-27). But the reason for that is tiles are relatively small and the damage doesn't spread out that much. Plus, a loss of a tile or two doesn't really disrupt the plasma flow enough to get it to touch the orbiter (which is bad). Granted you can get higher heat loads on the underneath structure, but not has high as with direct plasma exposure. Of course nobody figured a large hole punched in the RCC on the left wing...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-29-2009 02:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
If I recall didn't STS-27 suffer extensive TPS damage on its fuselage during SRB separation?
Spaceflight Now: Legendary commander tells story of shuttle's close call
The exhaustive attention NASA now devotes to making sure shuttle heat shields are damage-free and safe for re-entry is a direct result of the 2003 Columbia disaster. But a blacked-out military flight 21 years ago still stands out as a warning to astronauts, engineers and managers, a frightening "close call" that had the potential to bring the shuttle program to an early end.

It was that close.

"I will never forget, we hung the (robot) arm over the right wing, we panned it to the (damage) location and took a look and I said to myself, 'we are going to die,'" recalled legendary shuttle commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson. "There was so much damage. I looked at that stuff and I said, 'oh, holy smokes, this looks horrible, this looks awful.'"

He was seeing the worst tile damage any shuttle had ever experienced.

dogcrew5369
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posted 04-01-2009 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dogcrew5369   Click Here to Email dogcrew5369     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The May '09 issue of Air & Space has a great cover story on Robert "Hoot" Gibson with insight into the STS-27 close call. It's a great read about one of my favorite astronauts.

OV-105
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posted 04-04-2009 12:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mike Mullane's book had some good coverage on it also.

John Charles
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posted 04-20-2009 08:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if the decisions from STS-27 (and were there even any meaningful options available?) have been used in flight director training sessions since 1988. Given that the flight director's job description (according to Gene Kranz) begins with, "The flight director may take any action necessary for crew safety and mission success," I wonder why the unnamed STS-27 flight director didn't tell the DoD that their secrecy requirements did not outweigh the need for clear communications with the crew?

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