NOTE: Endeavour remains in the OPF as NASA managers continue to discuss launch options of mission STS-89 including the option to launch no earlier than Jan. 20, 1998. This delay is an effort to accommodate Mir operational activities.
In addition, KSC managers are evaluating flight hardware issues that are impacting the work schedule for Endeavour. On Friday, technicians completed payload bay door cycling tests. After the orbiter's payload bay doors were closed, work began to remove the support devices that externally brace the doors while they are being opened and closed. One of the four devices known as "strongbacks" sustained a weld failure and part of the brace contacted the forward left payload bay door. There was no penetration through the door, but inspections revealed an indention about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and a tenth of an inch deep on the surface beneath the thermal blanket. NASA engineers are developing a repair plan that will have the orbiter ready for transfer to the Vehicle Assembly Building as early as Thursday.
Also, engineers are evaluating an unusual number of damaged tiles sustained by the Shuttle Columbia during its 16 day flight. Managers want to be sure that this issue poses no threat to Endeavour's thermal protection system before its launch next year.
On Friday, after KSC ground crews completed safing and post-flight activities, Columbia was towed to Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 and was spotted there at about 2 p.m. Inspection of the orbiter's thermal protection system (TPS) revealed more than 300 hits to Columbia's exterior TPS tiles, with about 132 measuring greater than one inch long. Current estimations indicate about 100 TPS tiles may need replacement. Engineers are reviewing film footage and conducting extensive inspections to determine the cause for the high number of debris hits. The damaged tile posed no threat to flight crew safety.
Columbia's payload bay doors are scheduled to be opened tonight and removal of the Spartan payload is slated for Friday.
NOTE: Fuel cell monitoring modifications proceed in Discovery's midbody. Checks of the orbiter's water spray boiler and main propulsion system testing continue. Thermal protection system tiles are being replaced near the forward reaction control system and main landing gear doors. Servicing of the orbiter's flash evaporator system is also in work.
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