Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003
ARLINGTON, VA – The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today issued its third preliminary recommendation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in advance of its appearance in the final report.
An inspection of the TPS, accomplished as soon as possible after achieving orbit/rendezvous, coupled with repair capability, would result in improved safety.
The Board is convinced of the necessity of taking all practicable steps to “de-couple” foam insulation shedding from loss of crew and vehicle, including: 1) design improvements to prevent foam shedding; 2) toughening the TPS; 3) improved TPS inspection and repair capability.
An inspection and repair capability is fundamental to improving the ability of the orbiter to experience TPS damage without catastrophic consequences.
This effort does not reduce the urgency or importance of aggressively reducing all sources of potential damage to the orbiter. Only by reducing the likelihood of damage to the orbiter, as well as developing the ability to detect and repair damage, can the maximum safety improvement be realized.
During the STS-107 flight and investigation, the lack of repair capability was cited repeatedly, and may have been a factor in decisions made during the STS-107 mission, including the decision not to seek images which might have assisted in the assessment of damage resulting from the foam strike on ascent.
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