Friday, July 17, 2009

STS-127: Flight Day 3

Today Endeavour will dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Prior to docking, the Orbiter will perform a rendezvous pitch maneuver which is basically a backflip that exposes its heat shield to the crew of the ISS astronauts to take high resolution photos of the Orbiter's heat shield for analysis by the team I am on.

We did detect some damage already due to the ascent video, but we will get a better look at these once the photos are downlinked from the ISS.

When the External Tank (ET) is jettisoned from the Endeavour, photos are also taken by the crew utilizing a handheld camera to take high-res images of the tank as it begins its descent. Here's a photo they were able to get of some foam missing from the ET. This could be the area from where foam the struck the Orbiter. However, based on what's been seen so far, it is unlikely the foam could have caused any serious damage to the tiles. We expect the damages to be minor cosmetic damage which usually only effects a small portion of the tile coating surface with not much depth to it. Watching the news after launch, I can say some over-exaggerate the issue and they make it sound a little frightening!

You can read a little more about today's activities and what's been going on at the following article:


Anonymous said...

Hey Damaris,

I've been watching NASA TV and I'm picking up that they use the term Orbiter and while reading your Flight Day 3 post, you do as well. Prior to launch, Endeavour is described as the Space Shuttle, but when in Orbit, it's defined as the Orbiter. Can you explain the differences in terminology of Orbiter and Space Shuttle?

*** By the way, you've hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. ***

Damaris B. Sarria said...

We use the term Space Shuttle when we talk about the stack: External Tank, Solid Rocket Booster, and the Orbiter.

The Orbiter is only the vehicle itself. So right now as the ET and SRB have separated...we will now use the term Orbiter.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification!