NASAengineers have drawn up a plan to stow a kinked radiator hose aboard the shuttleAtlantis as the agency gears up for a Thursday launch toward the InternationalSpace Station (ISS).
Wielding aV-shaped pole, a shuttle technician will gently prod the bent hose back into acompartment inside Atlantis? payload bay, said NASA spokesperson Allard Beutelof the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
?In tests,it went really well,? Beutel told SPACE.com, adding that the fix is notexpected to impact Atlantis? planned Feb. 7 launch. ?They?ve been practicingthis since Wednesday.?
Shuttle workerswill perform the repair on Sunday, with the technician climbing inside Atlantis?60-foot (18-meter) payload bay at the start, then squeezing out of the cargohold before its shell-like doors are closed for launch. The shuttle?s payloadbay doors will be closed about 12 hours earlier than planned to allow extra cushionshould the repair run long, Beutel said.
Commandedby veteran shuttle flyer Stephen Frick, Atlantis? STS-122mission to the ISS has been delayed since early December due to glitcheswith fuel tank level sensors that have sincebeen resolved. The shuttle is scheduled to launch Thursday at 2:45 p.m. EST(1945 GMT) on an 11-day flight to ferry a new crewmember and the EuropeanSpace Agency?s Columbus laboratory to the orbiting space station.
Engineersdiscovered the kinked Freon hose, which is bent the wrong way, late Tuesdayafter finding a similar glitch on Atlantis? sister ship Discovery. The hose ispart of the shuttle?s cooling system and engineers were initially concerned that it mightdevelop a leak once in space.
Atlantis,however, has a backup cooling system that could be used should any leak occur,mission managers said late Wednesday. But aside from being misaligned, theradiator hose is currently undamaged and leak-free, they added.
Frick andhis crewmates are currently in quarantine at NASA?s Johnson Space Center in Houston to avoid catching any last-minute illnesses. They are scheduled toarrive at the agency?s KSC spaceport on Monday morning for final countdownpreparations.
?Right now,there is no effect to the overall timeline,? Beutel said of the hose repair.
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