Tue, Aug 15, 2006
May Require Replacement
Engineers at NASA have discovered a potentially serious problem
with the shuttle Atlantis, as it sits on the pad ahead of a planned
launch later this month. At issue are a series of bolts holding the
support box for a vital component called the KU-band antenna, to
the inside of the orbiter's payload bay.
Technophiles may recognize the antenna as the component used to
relay voice, video and data between the shuttle's crew and ground
control, via NASA's fleet of orbiting communications satellites.
Should the box break free during liftoff, it could cause
catastrophic damage as it falls the length of the 60-foot-long
Now, here's the problem: there's no easy way for engineers to
physically check the bolts while the shuttle sits on the pad...
meaning that for now, NASA must rely on previous engineering
reports to determine if the bolts may have come loose since the
antenna was originally installed.
Incidentally, NASA has known of potential problems with the
bolts for some time... in fact, the bolts were replaced onboard
sister shuttles Discovery and Endeavour after it was found the
bolts may have been manufactured too short to safely accomplish
CBS News reports the bolts were not replaced in Atlantis,
A two-day flight readiness review is now underway... to
determine, among other things, if... and how... the bolts should be
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