UPDATE: According to JPL’s Scott Maxwell on Twitter, the aeroshell was not damaged during the improper lifting, which is good news, as there should be no impact to the launch schedule.
The backshell for the Mars Science Laboratory was damaged last week at Kennedy Space Center when it was lifted improperly, according to Aviation Week. Engineers are now examining the backshell to determine the nature of the damage and how serious it is. There is no word yet on whether this could impact the launch of the Curiosity rover, which is currently set for November 25 of this year. The launch window extends to December 18, but after that the mission would have to wait about 26 months for the next favorable launch window.
An agency spokesman was quoted as saying the damage to the backshell did not appear to be serious. An Air Force C-17 carrying the backshell, cruise stage and heat shield arrived at Kennedy Space Center on May 12, while the rover and its unique the descent stage scheduled to arrive in June. The accident apparently involved the backshell being lifted with a crane in the wrong attitude, placing out-of-specification strain on clamps holding it together.
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We’ll keep you posted.
Source: Aviation Week, h/t Stu Atkinson