NASA probes faulty shuttle connector

Before the shuttle Atlantis was scheduled to lift off in late January, NASA engineers were trying to determine what has been causing an ongoing faulty connector/cable system—one that forced the scrub of Atlantis’ launch last December.

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Before the shuttle Atlantis was scheduled to lift off in late January, NASA engineers were trying to determine what has been causing an ongoing faulty connector/cable system—one that forced the scrub of Atlantis’ launch last December.

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A faulty connector/cable system affecting the lanuch of the shuttle Atlantis has been undergoing tests by NASA to study the impact of harsh environment and age factors.
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According to a recent story in the Huntsville (AL) Times, an engine cutoff sensor that is part of a system that monitors fuel flow and mixtures reportedly gave a false reading before the scheduled Dec. 6, 2007 lift-off.

Since then, a connector that joins a monitoring cable from the tank sensor to the computers on Atlantis have been undergoing cold testing, and NASAengineers believe the problem’s cause may be related to extremely cold liquid hydrogen fuel.

“We haven’t ruled anything out; it could be age related, or it could be something in the manufacturing process,” propulsion and electrical lead engineer Chad Bryant told the Times. He added that the same type of part has been causing troubles since the 2005 return-to-flight mission after the Columbia tragedy.

“This is a very harsh environment the connector has to withstand,” Bryanttold the Times. “On the liquid hydrogen side of the tank, it is exposed to super cold conditions, and then, just a few inches away, it is exposed to the natural weather conditions of the launch pad. It has a lot to go through.”

NASA engineers reportedly planned to bypass the connector for last February’s launch, instead soldering the cable into a new connector.

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