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  Space Shuttles - Space Station
  Wayne Hale: How we nearly lost Discovery

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Author Topic:   Wayne Hale: How we nearly lost Discovery
drjeffbang
Member

Posts: 103
From: Virginia
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 04-19-2012 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for drjeffbang   Click Here to Email drjeffbang     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was reading Wayne Hale's blog this morning and was surprised to read the story of Discovery. Was this old news to most of you?
Now that Discovery is safely delivered to the Smithsonian, I think I can tell the story of how we nearly lost her in July of 2005, and how well intentioned, highly motivated, hard working, smart people can miss the most obvious.

Atlantis
Member

Posts: 107
From: Cullman, AL
Registered: Dec 2007

posted 04-19-2012 10:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Atlantis   Click Here to Email Atlantis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember seeing the foam shear off on TV. It happened right when one of the commentators stated that there had not been any significant foam shedding yet (something to that effect).

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 04-19-2012 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can remember how shocked I was when footage of the foam breaking away from the PAL ramp was shown on television that evening when NASA revealed they had a foam loss. I was paying somewhat close attention to it since I was down in Florida to watch the first attempt to launch STS-114 (which got scrubbed due to the ECO tank sensor issue). I had this nagging thought in the back of my head that if something happened on 114, that could have been the end of the shuttle program and I didn't want to be denied the opportunity to see shuttle finally fly in person.

So, when it did happen I was in a bit of a funk for awhile. Thankfully they did return to flight on STS-121 after finally doing the wind tunnel and fluid dynamics analysis they should have done after 107 to show that the PAL ramps weren't needed and therefore they got removed from the successive tanks. But it still took another year of engineering work before everything was ready.

Of course, another thing I can remember is when NASA was partially crucified in the press after STS-107 as some people were implying that the foam loss on Columbia's tank was due to NASA switching its foam formula to one that didn't use a CFC based pressurization gas in the spray application. There were some problems with the foam formula when the change was made as there were a couple shuttle flights that showed tile damage due to foam shedding events. Well, guess what, the foam that broke off the bipod strut on 107 wasn't the new foam formula, it was the old one. NASA had some of the old foam left over for use in the larger hand formed foam structures, such as the PAL ramps and the Bipod ramps.

Moral of the story is the foam formula itself had nothing to do with the foam loss. It could have happened on any of the previous shuttle flights to that point, but it did not. Columbia just happened to be the unlucky recipient when the dice roll came up snakeeyes.

drjeffbang
Member

Posts: 103
From: Virginia
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 04-24-2012 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for drjeffbang   Click Here to Email drjeffbang     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been catching up on the Wayne Hale blog and he has a lot of interesting answers and responses in the comments section.

All times are CT (US)

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