As the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans for the next launch of the space shuttle, a critical aspect of the programs safety is being assured by 5 million pieces of data collected recently by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
To help prevent a repeat of the 2003 accident when launch debris damaged the shuttle Columbia, causing it to break up on re-entry, NASA has begun illuminating shuttles with tracking radars during launches and ascent to detect and quantify potential hazards. Concerns about possible disruption of onboard electronic guidance and control systems led NASA to request NISTs help in determining how much radar energy can penetrate the orbiter in key locations.
During the launch of Discovery in July, radar was used to track debris during ascent and NASA considered the NIST shielding data vital to the resumption of shuttle flights.
Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
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