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Getting the shuttle back into the air



 
 
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Old February 10th 04, 06:07 PM
John Schutkeker
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Default Getting the shuttle back into the air


Getting the shuttle safely back into space doesn't seem too complex, but
satisfying the CAIB's requirements does. CAIB apparently charged NASA with
two tasks, to fix the problems that caused the crash - the main tank's foam
lining and the leading edge of the wing, and designing some kind of rescue
system for situations with launch damage severe enough to make landing too
dangerous.

The first task seems straightforward, but the second looks quite difficult,
especially considering that the fleet is down to three vehicles and there
won't be another one built.

The solution I imagine is to launch an escape module atop an expendable
booster, with enough capacity to evacuate the entire crew. Then mount a
repair mission at a later time. Remote control capabilities and fuel would
have to be provided to maintain the shuttle's orbit for the long term, as
it might take a year or more to plan such a repair mission, or it might
require more than one mission.

Does anybody know what options NASA is examining to do this job, or if it
would even be realistic to salvage the vehicle in such a situation? I can
easily imagine that it might be impossible to repair the shuttle in orbit,
and that in such a situation, we might lose another vehicle, although
fortunately not the crew.
 




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