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  STS-117: NASA examines hail damage

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Author Topic:   STS-117: NASA examines hail damage
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Bill Harwood/Spaceflight Now:
quote:
Engineers and managers gathered at the Kennedy Space Center today for the start of a two-day flight readiness review faced an unexpected topic of discussion: apparent hail damage to the foam insulation on the shuttle Atlantis' external fuel tank.

A strong thunderstorm rumbled across the Florida spaceport Monday afternoon and officials say closed circuit television cameras at pad 39A showed signs of hail damage to the tank. The extent of the damage and what, if anything, might be needed to repair it, is under assessment.


Further from an internal NASA e-mail written last night:

quote:
This evening, around 1700, Pad A experienced hail up to golf ball size. Damage to the ET was visible on OTV. OTV recorded multiple views of the damage prior to darkness. An ET Team (USA/NASA ET Mechanical and Lockheed ET TPS) reviewed the video imaging of the damage on the external tank. At a glance, the damage is worst than ET-100 (previous rollback with about 700 areas of damage). Damage is at least 1000 and is in the no-debris zone. It also looks like there is damage on at least one Ice Frost Ramp. Visible damage appears to be on the southwest of the tank. However, the north side of the tank was not imaged...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASASpaceFlight.com is reporting that Atlantis suffered 20 hits to its left wing and that preparations to rollback the shuttle to the VAB are now underway.

cspg
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posted 02-27-2007 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
NASASpaceFlight.com is reporting that Atlantis suffered 20 hits to its left wing and that preparations to rollback the shuttle to the VAB are now underway.

Is there an "extra" ET ready if this one needs to be replaced? Any hits on the RCC panels? I was wondering the extent of the repairs required and if they implied destacking the whole thing (and if so the impact on this year's schedule..).

Chris.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The extent of the damage is still being assessed. A replacement ET is still five weeks out from being delivered to KSC (if indeed that is what is needed). As to the effects on the schedule, Chris Bergin on NASASpaceFlight.com just posted the following, citing a Lockheed e-mail:
quote:
Minor ET repairs in VAB - Possibly make the end of the March 25th window

Major ET repairs in VAB - Might be able to make the April 23rd - May 24th window

R&R ET with the 118 tank - STS-117 will launch in July and STS-118 will move to August 26th


Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA will host a news conference at no earlier than 4 p.m. EST, Tuesday, Feb. 27, to discuss the status of the space shuttle's upcoming mission, STS-117. Topics will include the latest on possible impacts to the mission from a hail storm at Kennedy Space Center Monday. The briefing will air live on NASA TV.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-27-2007 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, most unfortunate, as my sources tell me there were more than 7,000 impact damage "hits" from a hail storm late yesterday afternoon. Certainly a rollback will be planned with no launch this month and probably not until April-May. Our STS-117 decal stickers just arrived this morning along with our mission cachet envelope covers. It now looks like we'll have pletty of time to work on them instead of only 2 weeks.

FFrench
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posted 02-27-2007 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gives a whole new meaning to
"Hail Atlantis"!

Ben
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posted 02-27-2007 03:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No earlier than April 20 or a few days after pending the Soyuz undocking which is April 20.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More imagery of the external tank:

High resolution versions: 1 | 2 | 3

OV-105
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posted 02-27-2007 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well at least it was not a woodpecker this time.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From NASA.gov:
quote:
NASA officials have announced that Space Shuttle Atlantis will roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for repair after Monday's hail storm.

"This constitutes the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," said Wayne Hale, manager of the Space Shuttle Program.

Hale said that a number of areas need to be repaired and are not accessible at the launch pad.

The vehicle's slow journey back to the Vehicle Assembly Building will take place over the weekend or early next week. This will give the technicians an opportunity to give the space shuttle an intensive look at the damage and evaluate what it will take to repair it.

"It will be about a month before we can talk about heading back to the launch posture," said Hale, "given the repair schedule and the ISS requirements.

The next launch window opportunity opens in late April and extends out to the later part of May.

The two-day Flight Readiness Review at NASA's Kennedy Space Center will continue in parallel with Kennedy Ground Operations assessment of the external tank damage.


benguttery
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posted 02-27-2007 06:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for benguttery   Click Here to Email benguttery     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was around KSC (not KFC!) yesterday afternoon and it was quite an intense thunderstorm. Sought shelter from the lightening. Hadn't seen a good tropical thunderstorm like that in a good while.

OV-105
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posted 02-27-2007 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Had the S3/S4 been placed in the payloadbay yet? If it has I guess they will remove it before the roll back.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2007 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The payload was installed last week and yes, it will be removed (tomorrow, I believe).

ysl001
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posted 02-28-2007 04:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ysl001   Click Here to Email ysl001     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's a pretty bad hit for Atlantis and i believe it's the first time the US space shuttle got damaged by a hailstorm too .

spaced out
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posted 02-28-2007 05:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Surely it would be possible to produce a simple (and cheap) protective shroud to protect at least the most vulnerable parts of the ET from this kind of eventuality?

ysl001
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posted 02-28-2007 06:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ysl001   Click Here to Email ysl001     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
Surely it would be possible to produce a simple (and cheap) protective shroud to protect at least the most vulnerable parts of the ET from this kind of eventuality?


I'm not sure abt the tech stuffs of the Shuttle but i think the ET getting damaged by the hailstorm was something that was not expected by NASA personnel nor the engineers they had a RSS structure but it didn't work well on this to me for the hailstorm though even some of the RCC panels were damaged too if i'm nt wrong .

Orthon
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posted 02-28-2007 06:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Orthon   Click Here to Email Orthon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just another example of how impractical and fragile the shuttle design is.....

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-28-2007 08:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ysl001:
That's a pretty bad hit for Atlantis and i believe it's the first time the US space shuttle got damaged by a hailstorm too.
In 1999, Discovery suffered 650 dings from hail as it was waiting to launch on STS-96, requiring a rollback to the VAB, four days to fix and a one-week launch delay.

From SPACE.com:

quote:
Hail is not uncommon to NASA’s Florida launch site and has damaged NASA orbiters and fuel tanks in the past, shuttle officials said.

In addition to the May 1999 damage during STS-96, hail also damaged Atlantis’ heat resistant tiles in 1990 as the shuttle was being readied for launch of its STS-38 mission.


Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-28-2007 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
Surely it would be possible to produce a simple (and cheap) protective shroud to protect at least the most vulnerable parts of the ET from this kind of eventuality?
For most cases, it already exists: the rotating service structure and Pad 39 complex.

"We have had hail a number of times in the past, hail is not unusual in Florida... But usually the hail is quite small and rarely causes damage," said shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale. "This was large, wind-driven, damaging hail."

It was the wind, with gusts as high as 62 mph, that propelled the large hail against the vehicle.

KSCartist
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posted 02-28-2007 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would the damage to the ET have been less if the vent hood "beany cap" was in place? I'm thinking it would be more robust and have deflected some of the hail.

Tim

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-28-2007 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ysl001:
...though even some of the RCC panels were damaged too, if i'm nt wrong.
At least as of now, it appears that the RCC escaped damage.

NASA's press release described the impact to the orbiter as "minor surface damage to about 26 heat shield tiles on the shuttle's left wing." The damage to Atlantis apparently stemmed from ricocheting hail that penetrated the rotating service structure.

"We have not seen any orbiter damage that causes us real concern," said NASA launch director Mike Leinbach.

benguttery
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posted 02-28-2007 11:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for benguttery   Click Here to Email benguttery     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would the shuttle fly faster with the divits like a golf ball does? Kidding, mostly.

tegwilym
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posted 02-28-2007 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yet another launch that I'm glad I didn't make plans to see. Ugh....just a few more years for me to attempt to see one go.

Nasa needs a big tarp or something to cover the shuttle like I do with my boat in my backyard! But we never get hail like that here in Seattle....

kimmern123
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posted 02-28-2007 12:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kimmern123   Click Here to Email kimmern123     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know what time of the day Atlantis would be launched if they decide to send her up in late April?

Lunar rock nut
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posted 02-28-2007 12:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just imagine the damage if it were baseball or softball size as we experience here in Oklahoma on a yearly basis.


Terry !

[Edited by Lunar rock nut (February 28, 2007).]

Ben
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posted 02-28-2007 02:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kimmern123:
Does anyone know what time of the day Atlantis would be launched if they decide to send her up in late April?

April 21st is 3:26pm EDT and it gets approx. 23-26 minutes earlier each subsequent day.

------------------
-Ben

www.LaunchPhotography.com

mjanovec
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posted 02-28-2007 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The payload was installed last week and yes, it will be removed (tomorrow, I believe).

Would there be any circumstance where it would be acceptible to rollback the stack to the VAB with the payload installed in the orbiter? That is, assuming whatever repairs are needed won't require opening or accessing the cargo bay? (Granted, I suspect they remove the payload on the off-chance something crops up that makes them want to go inside the payload bay.)

I guess what I'm asking is whether it's feasible to rollback with payload in place? I would assume the stresses on the payload wouldn't be any greater than those encountered at liftoff.

kimmern123
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posted 02-28-2007 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kimmern123   Click Here to Email kimmern123     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Will this cause any delays for STS-120 and STS-122? It of course will affect 118, but I just wondered what you think. Turnaround might delay 120 and 122 obviously can't fly without Node 2 already installed.

The flaws in relying fully on the shuttle for ISS construction kicks in again.

[Edited by kimmern123 (March 03, 2007).]

John K. Rochester
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posted 02-28-2007 08:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Most likely STS 118 will take 120's launch date of August 26th, then 120 will slip to the end of 2007- beginning 2008. ( This is the 2nd time I've been able to make a launch that "funky" External tank problems made me miss them..the first time I scheduled my honeymoon in 1996 around a scheduled launch..'till those Darn Woodpeckers poked holes in the insulation of the ET..)

Spacepsycho
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posted 02-28-2007 09:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kimmern123:

Excuse me, but did I read your post correctly ? You're blaming the STS for delaying the building the ISS ???? Do you actually believe that or are you just spouting the popular anti-shuttle BS line ? If you want to place blame for the delay of the ISS completion, take a look at our Russian partners, not the month or 2 delay caused by weather damage.

I'm getting tired of everyone dumping on the STS as being unreliable, faulty, overly dangerous or obsolete. The STS is an incredible machine that's been responsible for so many outstanding LEO achievements in the science, communication, defense, robotics and satellite servicing fields. Nothing comes close to it.

If it was such a piece of junk, why hasn't anyone else around the world come up with anything better ??? I don't see the Japanese, Chinese, ESA, Arianne or other space agencies developing anything close to the capability of the STS.

The orbiters have landed with so much damage that the techs just shake their heads when post flight inspection reveals broken tiles, burned holes in the wings and other problems that could have been catastrophic, but weren't because of how well it's built.

Sure, would it have been wonderful if Senator Proxmire wouldn't have forced NASA to destroy all of the Apollo hard & software, in exchange for funding the STS. Sure it would be great to have the Saturn V putting large payloads into GSO and LEO, but it didn't happen that way.

The dedicated people who conceived, designed, built, tested, service and fly the shuttle do a brilliant job. The shuttle has it's flaws, but the destruction of Challenger & Columbia were a DIRECT result in failure by NASA & contractor management.

The fact that everyone is in such a hurry to mothball the shuttle, IMHO, is shortsighted and another waste of an excellent resource for our country. But this country is famous for getting good at something, then throwing it in the garbage.

So when I read offhand remarks like you dumping on the shuttle, it really pisses me off. I was standing on the runway for all of the ALT landings, I've attended most of the Edwards AFB landings and I've seen upclose & personal what an amazing machine the shuttle is.

So do me a favor and the next time you want to vent about the shuttle being delayed due to an abnormal weather event, like being beat up by very large hail, don't. I'd like to see what would have happened to any other space vehicle that was left out in that weather.

Ray

Ben
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posted 02-28-2007 10:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
Would there be any circumstance where it would be acceptible to rollback the stack to the VAB with the payload installed in the orbiter?

Sure. STS-115 was rolled back for the hurricane in August with payload aboard. This time, however, there is the threat of having to destack and send Atlantis back into the OPF, if the damage turns out to be so bad that an ET swap needs to be made.

I do not know the weight limits of lifting the orbiter using the giant sling/crane in the VAB offhand, but I am almost positive this was the main reason for removing it.

[Edited by Ben (February 28, 2007).]

Ben
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posted 02-28-2007 10:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kimmern123:
Will this cause any delays for STS-120 and STS-122? It of course will affect 118, but I just wondered what you think. Turnaround might delay 120 and 122 obviously can't fly without Node 2 already installed.

According to the story by Bill HArwood:
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts117/070227delay/

...it is almost certainly going to cause a change in the dates of each of the next few flights by a few weeks. Atlantis is the launch on need shuttle for 118, and 118's date is somewhat based on the turnaround time post-117. So 118 is likely to slip into July BASED UPON an April 20 or so date.

If an ET swap is performed, 117 will take June 28 and 118 will move to August 26, etc.

In addition, my understanding is that 120 is likely to require a daylight lauch rule because of a new ET foam modification (this was the reason for moving it up to August 26 from Sept 7), and thus a delay of just ten or so days results in about a month long slip for 120 into the next daylight window.

OV-105
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posted 03-01-2007 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spacepsycho I have to agree with you. I think they should not have come out and said the the shuttle must be retired in 2010. They should have said when the ISS is completed the shuttle will be retired.

kimmern123
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posted 03-01-2007 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kimmern123   Click Here to Email kimmern123     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spacepsycho:
Kimmern123:

Excuse me, but did I read your post correctly ? You're blaming the STS for delaying the building the ISS ???? Do you actually believe that or are you just spouting the popular anti-shuttle BS line ? If you want to place blame for the delay of the ISS completion, take a look at our Russian partners, not the month or 2 delay caused by weather damage.

I'm getting tired of everyone dumping on the STS as being unreliable, faulty, overly dangerous or obsolete. The STS is an incredible machine that's been responsible for so many outstanding LEO achievements in the science, communication, defense, robotics and satellite servicing fields. Nothing comes close to it.

If it was such a piece of junk, why hasn't anyone else around the world come up with anything better ??? I don't see the Japanese, Chinese, ESA, Arianne or other space agencies developing anything close to the capability of the STS.

The orbiters have landed with so much damage that the techs just shake their heads when post flight inspection reveals broken tiles, burned holes in the wings and other problems that could have been catastrophic, but weren't because of how well it's built.

Sure, would it have been wonderful if Senator Proxmire wouldn't have forced NASA to destroy all of the Apollo hard & software, in exchange for funding the STS. Sure it would be great to have the Saturn V putting large payloads into GSO and LEO, but it didn't happen that way.

The dedicated people who conceived, designed, built, tested, service and fly the shuttle do a brilliant job. The shuttle has it's flaws, but the destruction of Challenger & Columbia were a DIRECT result in failure by NASA & contractor management.

The fact that everyone is in such a hurry to mothball the shuttle, IMHO, is shortsighted and another waste of an excellent resource for our country. But this country is famous for getting good at something, then throwing it in the garbage.

So when I read offhand remarks like you dumping on the shuttle, it really pisses me off. I was standing on the runway for all of the ALT landings, I've attended most of the Edwards AFB landings and I've seen upclose & personal what an amazing machine the shuttle is.

So do me a favor and the next time you want to vent about the shuttle being delayed due to an abnormal weather event, like being beat up by very large hail, don't. I'd like to see what would have happened to any other space vehicle that was left out in that weather.

Ray


Sorry for the misunderstanding. I do not blame this on the Shuttle. I find your attitude towards me a bit insulting as I count myself as a great Shuttle supporter! I was born in 1991 and the Shuttle has been equal to manned space flight for me my entire life. Instead of hanging around the street corners and going to parties, I've been reading the CAIB-report and every other document I can dig up on what I think is the greatest machine ever made by man. Again I must say I DON'T "DUMP OFF" REMARKS ON THE SHUTTLE!!!

What I truly meant was that the Shuttle has it's flaws, like everything else in this world and that relying on the Shuttle completely for getting the parts up has its weaknesses, but ultimately there's no other way to do it

Philip
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posted 03-02-2007 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Couldn't the guys at the NASA weather stations forecast the hail storm ???

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-02-2007 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Philip:
Couldn't the guys at the NASA weather stations forecast the hail storm???
This was a freak storm that lasted a total of 17 minutes. It takes eight hours to rollback the vehicle to the Vehicle Assembly Building. I doubt that the severity of the hail and its pinpoint location could be predicted accurately and early enough to merit seeking shelter beyond what the pad complex already offers.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-02-2007 03:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More information from a NASA internal presentation:

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-02-2007 03:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

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