Mishap mangles shuttle part

CAPECANAVERAL - NASA launched an investigation Monday into yet another shuttleworkplace accident: serious damage to a nearly half-million-dollar power controllerthat routes electricity to critical orbiter systems.

Theincident, which occurred last week at a shuttle spare parts depot in CapeCanaveral, followed a recent rash of accidents that have resulted in damage toshuttle orbiters and the death of a construction worker.

Two otherinvestigation boards have met to determine the cause of two of those incidentsin hopes of preventing similar mishaps in the future.

Theestimated cost of replacing the power controller damaged last week would be$452,710, according to a Kennedy Space Center mishap report. Investigators arenot yet certain whether replacement will be required.

"Thathasn't been determined," KSC spokeswoman Tracy Young said.

Less costlyrepairs might be an option.

Afive-member board tapped to investigate the matter met for the first timeMonday.

The initialmishap report said the damage occurred March 27 during an engineeringevaluation of the power controller. A power-input connector had been installedbackwards. That caused the flow of electricity to be reversed, damaging thecontroller during testing.

Thecontroller is one of three used to route electricity from a shuttle'spower-generating fuel cells to orbiter systems. The devices are consideredcritical during launch, flight, atmospheric re-entry and landing.

The mishapfollowed a series of workplace accidents that prompted NASA last month to ordera safety standdown at KSC.

Dating backto January, the incidents included a small fire at the KSC Vehicle AssemblyBuilding, damage to a 50-foot shuttle robot arm and the death of a constructionworker performing roof repairs.

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Aerospace Journalist

Todd Halvoron is a veteran aerospace journalist based in Titusville, Florida who covered NASA and the U.S. space program for 27 years with Florida Today. His coverage for Florida Today also appeared in USA Today, Space.com and 80 other newspapers across the United States. Todd earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, journalism and fiction from the University of Cincinnati and also served as Florida Today's Kennedy Space Center Bureau Chief during his tenure at Florida Today. Halvorson has been an independent aerospace journalist since 2013.