UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



US Astronauts to Inspect Shuttle For Post-Launch Damage

09 June 2007

Astronauts aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis are conducting a video inspection of the shuttle's outer hull Saturday as it orbits the Earth.

The Atlantis crew will use a special camera attached to the shuttle's long robotic arm to see if the spacecraft sustained any damage during the flight. They are expected to pay close attention to a small tear in the shuttle's heat shield that engineers detected in still photos after the shuttle's Friday launch.

A spokesman for the U.S. space agency, NASA, said that so far the damage does not seem significant.

Atlantis lifted off Friday evening from NASA's launch center in Florida. The flight had been delayed for three months, after a hail storm damaged the foam insulation on the shuttle's external fuel tank.

Despite the tank being covered with thousands of patches to cover dents from the storm, shuttle program director Wayne Hale said it held up well during launch.

The procedure has been in effect since the 2003 space shuttle Colombia disaster, when insulating foam broke off during launch and punctured a wing. The breach allowed extremely hot gases into the wing during Columbia's re-entry, destroying the ship and killing all seven crewmembers.

Atlantis is scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. The crew will install a set of solar panels on the orbital outpost, and will bring U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams home after a six-month stay. She will be replaced by fellow astronaut Clayton Anderson.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list