Space Shuttle Discovery, New and Improved

Space Shuttle Discovery, now orbiting Earth's atmosphere through August 7th, was redesigned after the 2003 Columbia disaster, which destroyed ship and crew. Among the Discovery's improvements: sensitive wings, laced with 22 temperature sensors that measure how heat is distributed across their spans. These sensors take 20,000 readings per seconds, allowing the wings to detect impacts and gauge strength and location; new cameras that view images of launch and ascent and watch for impacts from falling foam insulation; a repair kit to fix damage to the shuttle's heat shield in the case of an emergency; and new electric heaters to ward off ice buildup where the top of the shuttle tank connects to the ship. The heaters replaced foam wedges used on previous shuttles; it was one of these foam wedges that slipped from Columbia during launch, hitting and damaging the wing and triggering destruction of the shuttle and crew when they reentered the earth's atmosphere.

Interestingly enough, one part of the shuttle that wasn't overhauled in redesign was an aerodynamic "ramp" designed to smooth airflow over a cable tray and two pressurization lines on the ship's external tank. A 0.9 piece of foam debris flew off this ramp during the July 26th launch. The foam, however, didn't impact the shuttle as it fell. Said Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins: "Remember, every shuttle flight does have a little bit of damage, there's no way to stop everything, the smallest pieces of foam from falling off the tank."

NASA image analysts have identified nine target sites for further examination, including a chipped heat-shield tile on the edge of a nose landing gear door, minor dings around an aft fuel tank attachment fitting and scuffs seen on a few wing leading edge panels. So far none of the damages have been deemed threatening to the shuttle's reentry scheduled for August 7.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

chelsea's picture
chelsea says:

i hope you built a better shuttle than the last one that was a heart break to america and we wish it does not happen again.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nthank you

posted on Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:31pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Just in case you haven't heard the Space Shuttle landed safely at 8:12 am EDT at Edwards Air Force Base in California yesterday.

Woohoo. I agree with you chelsea. I was heartbroken at the loss of the last shuttle crew and am super glad that Discover was able to return safely. Let's hope that NASA is able to deal with the problems that the space shuttle grounding will present in the future.
bryan kennedy
Science Buzz Site Admin

posted on Wed, 08/10/2005 - 2:44pm
noone's picture
noone says:

i think they waste to much money for something that they are not really sure if its gonna work. sometimes works , some others doesnt . BUT WHY WORK IN SOMETHING THAT NOBODY REALLY KNOWS?

posted on Thu, 12/29/2005 - 1:05pm
fazal abdool's picture
fazal abdool says:

I will like to contact the manufacturer of the temperature sensors used on the leading edge of the space shuttle's wing. Can you provide manufacturer's name and contact information? Thank you.

posted on Wed, 08/12/2009 - 3:56am

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