On Sunday, February 3, NASA technicians will carefully climb inside the orbiter’s payload bay so that they can gently push the bent metal-jacketed hose, first, manually with their hands and then, later, with a 16-foot long “V”-shaped pole. The “V” end of the pole is about 3 inches in height and about 3.5 inches in width.
They will be pushing the hose back into its internal storage compartment. This action will be taken as the shuttle’s cargo bay doors are slowly closed.
After the task is completed, the technicians will squeeze out of the payload bay through the small opening in the partially closed doors. After they are clear of the doors, the cargo bay doors will be completely closed.
The doors are being closed one day earlier than normal in case problems should occur and extra time is needed to fix them.
Practice runs performed for this make-shift technique have been successful over the past few days, and NASA is confident that it will work on Sunday. In addition, analysis has shown that the coolant line will not be adversely affected by the rocket vibrations caused by the launch.
The bent hose, one of four hoses, carries Freon® coolant to radiators within the orbiter to dissipate heat generated by onboard computers and electronic equipment so that they maintain a certain temperature.
NASA engineers have fund that the bent hose is only misaligned and, other than that, is working normally. It is not leaking and not damaged in any way. NASA states that even if it does leak in space, there are backup systems that can carry the coolant throughout the orbiter.
Additional information about the bent radiator hose is found in the iTWire article “NASA says shuttle Atlantis is just about ready for Feb 7 mission.”
In addition, the fuel gauge sensors to the liquid hydrogen tank inside of the external tank have been fixed so they should not cause a problem like in earlier launches and attempted launches of the shuttle. A problem with a wiring connector at the base of the hydrogen tank has been found to be the cause. It has been modified so that the sensors will accurately read the proper amount of liquid hydrogen in the tank.
The Atlantis crew is expected to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center at about 10:30 a.m. on Monday, about 6.5 hours before the countdown begins for the mission. Their main purpose is to deliver and install the European Space Agency’s Columbus scientific laboratory to the International Space Station.
The astronauts are scheduled to land on February 19, 2008, at the Kennedy Space Center, after completing their mission. However, if the bent hose causes serious problems in space, there is a possibility that the mission might be shortened. However, analysis has shown that this chance is minimal.
Additional information on the STS-122 mission is found at the NASA website: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts122/.