. 24/7 Space News .
All Eyes On Discovery, Scanning For Damage

File photo of Discovery during its recent tank test.
Cape Kennedy (AFP) July 11, 2005
NASA will use enhanced imaging equipment to examine Discovery from every angle during its return to space Wednesday, scanning for the kind of damage that doomed its predecessor Columbia.

A total of 107 cameras will be installed around the launch pad and at distances of six to 60 kilometers (some 3.5 to 35 miles) away, as well as on board two airplanes, which will film and photograph the orbiter's first two minutes of ascent.

Other lenses will be mounted on the shuttle itself, its two booster rockets and external tanks, to see whether pieces of insulation foam or ice fall off during the launch and strike the shuttle.

Later, two astronauts aboard the International Space Station, Sergei Krikalev of Russia and John Phillips of the United States, will take pictures of the underbelly of the shuttle when it turns before docking at the station.

A chunk of foam that separated from Columbia's enormous external tank during launch caused it to disintegrate upon re-entry into the atmosphere in February 2003, according to a probe into the accident.

The foam damaged the leading edge of the shuttle's left wing, and air superheated by the resulting friction entered the wing, melting its aluminum structure.

The enhanced imaging equipment in place for Discovery's launch on Wednesday is a considerable step up from the system used before the Columbia tragedy.

It should allow scientists to detect the slightest crack in the shuttle's thermal protection, according to Bob Page, the official in charge of the imaging system.

Hundreds of high-resolution images of the orbiter, its external tanks and its rocket boosters will be taken just before the launch so that scientists can compare "before" and "after" shots, he told reporters Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center.

Short-range tracking cameras with 200 mm lenses will snap 100 images per second, while 42 16 mm video cameras around the launch pad will also be rolling.

Medium-range cameras have been situated at six sites - three along the Atlantic coast near the Kennedy Space Center - with lenses of 800 to 3,750 mm. They will take 100 shots a second.

Five of the six sites are also equipped with high-definition video cameras.

Long-range cameras placed in a zone stretching 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Cape Canaveral and 60 kilometers north have gigantic 10,000 mm lenses capable of capturing images of the shuttle high into the sky.

Images taken by the short-range cameras will be sent within hours for analysis at the Kennedy Space Center here, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The other shots, thousands of them, will be sent to NASA engineers over the 48 hours after the shuttle goes into orbit.

If the images show that Discovery has been seriously damaged, it will remain docked at the Space Station and its seven astronauts will wait there for another shuttle to bring them back to Earth, in what would be the first such rescue for the space program.

Discovery would then be pulled away from the ISS and allowed to plunge into the ocean.

All rights reserved. � 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

Related Links
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

NASA Hopes For Safe Shuttle Flight After Fixes
Cape Canaveral (AFP) Jul 10, 2005
The Discovery space shuttle taking off from here Wednesday was revamped to ensure that the first mission since the Columbia shuttle disaster is safer despite the inherent dangers of space travel.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.