Kennedy Space Center, Florida-Inspection and repair of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and its fuel tanks, damaged by hail on the Launch Pad at the Kennedy Space Center on 26 Feb, is well under way, NASA indicated in a 12 March update on preparations for the latest mission.
Shuttle and tanks are back in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy where, according to NASA (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration), "Workers positioned platforms around the shuttle to allow for inspections and repairs to hail-damaged areas."
The massive fuel tank, coated with polyurethane foam, suffered, "the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," said Wayne Hale, manager of the Space Shuttle Program, in an earlier statement from NASA.
"Some foam sanding has begun in the nose cone area of the tank," the NASA update added. According to the inspection team, the hail caused up to 2000 dents in the tank's foam insulation.
Minor surface damage also occurred on about 26 heat-shield tiles on the Atlantis orbiter's left wing. NASA said that its inspections of the solid rocket boosters are complete, and inspections are nearly complete for the orbiter: 20 of 28 hail-damaged areas, all on the left side of the vehicle, already repaired.
"A new target launch date has not been determined," NASA said, adding that teams will still aim to prepare Atlantis for liftoff in late April.
Pic: In highbay 1 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, technicians begin to carefully sand away the red dye that has been applied to the external tank to help expose cracks or compression dents. Photo: NASA/Jim Grossman."