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Digital Thermometer and Surface Probe Help Repair Shuttle Tiles

ImageFluke 54 Series II digital thermometer and
Fluke 80PK-27 surface probe
Fluke Corp.
Everett, WA
425-347-6100
www.fluke.com

Testing emergency inspection and repair techniques was one of the primary goals of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s July 2005 mission. The crew of Discovery used a modified Fluke digital thermometer and 80PK-27 surface probe to repair Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles during the shuttle’s “Return to Flight” voyage. Adapted for use by Swales Aerospace of Beltsville, MD, the tools accompanied mission crew members Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi in their space walk on day five of the mission.

The thermometer was used to check surface temperatures during testing of a “space spackle,” a sealant material called Non-Oxide Adhesive eXperimental (NOAX) used to patch small cracks in the tiles that may be damaged during launch or in flight. The thermometer provided readings that were useful in helping NASA analyze and compare NOAX’s properties under “real space” conditions with thermal analysis predictions made prior to the mission. The unit was then left with the crew of the International Space Station instead of being brought to Earth as originally planned.

The thermometer was enclosed in a protective aluminum chassis with a plastic window over the screen and wrapped in a multi-layer blanket of reflective Mylar. It stayed within its operating range outside the shuttle for up to 8 hours. In the event of a cosmic particle strike that could affect the unit’s software, Swales engineers installed an external switch to disconnect its battery and automatically reset the software. The space thermometer was also modified for single-button operation. The surface probe was shortened and attached rigidly to the aluminum chassis.

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