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STS-115: Shuttle Atlantis Suffered Major Orbital Debris Hit

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posted on Oct, 5 2006 @ 09:04 AM
It seems that Atlantis was suffered one of the most serious (reported) orbital debris strikes to date during the STS-115 flight (Sept. 9-21). According to the article at NASA spaceflight:

MMOD hits are common for Shuttle missions, but are usually too small to be of any concern. This event, however, raises questions, especially when it is currently unclear if the damage was spotted on orbit.

'Radiator panel on STS-115 took MMOD hit. This is first or second largest hit in history of SSP (Space Shuttle Program), noted a NASA report, updated today, and acquired by this site. '0.108 inch diameter at entry point. One-half inch thick honeycomb damaged.

'If hit were on RCC, it would have penetrated, but criticality of resulting damage is not known.'

The RCC acronym stands for Reinforced Carbon Carbon; the RCC panels are the grey portions of the shuttle's heat shield. These panels, located along the leading edge of the shuttle's wing, are the panels that were damaged during Columbia's tragic STS-107 flight. Now, a hole 1/10 of an ich in diameter is much different that the hole we think was punched in Columbia's RCC panels, but it stands to reason that a single hole in a very critical region could spell disaster for another mission - e.g., a hole in the portion of the heat shield that covers the shuttle's landing gear could leak plasma from re-entry into the wheel well, rending said landing gear inoperative. To say nothing about what a hit one of the shuttle's windows might have done.

I don't think that this should delay any further shuttle missions - this isn't an inherent vehicle design/engineering flaw, and we've got ISS commitments to keep. But I'm sure that opinion isn't universally held here at ATS. Cosmic thoughts?

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