Could the Shuttle Return W/Payload?

If the shuttle was to deliver a structure (i.e.: space truss) to expand the Space Station, for example, but it was found to have been machined incorrectly and could not be secured into place… Could the shuttle make the return flight with the added mass of a payload (assuming the payload would be returned to earth for re-machining) fuel wise, etc.? And, in general, is the shuttle re-entry sequence designed for this scenario, or is it assumed the payload area would always be emptied? - Jinx

I’d say, as a WAG – yes, because the shuttles have picked up stuff before, and because of the procedures outlined here.

My WAG is a seperate shuttle mission would have to be scheduled to bring the item back.

The shuttle can. I don’t know what is needed for preperation though.

There is a plan to recover the Hubble Telescope when its mission is over and put it in a museum or some damn thing. I think that it would easily be the largest item brought back from orbit.

They regularly land with the SpaceHab research module in the payload bay, and that weighs 16,000 lbs. Columbia was the first flight of the SpaceHab Research Double Module, which probably weighs around double that (since it’s two of them). I think some of the trusses and modules for ISS weighed significantly more than that though.

The Columbia was to have the heaviest ever weight upon landing on it’s last mission.

I’d say no, it would have to be ditched. Nor could another shuttle get it on a later mission. Perhaps more accurately, it would be more cost effecient to build a new truss than to strip down a shuttle’s weight and fly a mission solely to recover the old truss.

IANA astronaut or engineer, however. That’s my WAG.

Shuttle missions go into orbit prepared for many scenario’s when they rendevous with ISS to deliver parts. With NASA’s compromised budget, they would take the least expensive way out on this… but it is one of those things that you can’t truly predict upon, until the circumstance arises. Now theoretically if they did decide to bring it back, and that IS a possibility, they would more than likely pull the mission short to do so and implement plans they have already touched upon. As for sending another mission up to retrieve it: it would be very costly, because if the part couldn’t be secured in place, then the shuttle leaving it up there would mean the piece would then become an independent object that NASA would have no control of once untethered from the shuttle. ISS orbits at a high rate of speed, and if the piece can’t be attatched, it’s going to be left there alone to freefall slowly. Mapping out an orbital plan to get it back would be tricky and not profitable.
Hope that helps…

IANA know-it-all… but I am a space enthusiast and astronomy major, and my husband is a scientist with NASA on Hubble. I don’t claim this to be a certifiable answer… but one based upon years of being around the science that makes up NASA.

But to deliver the part to the ISS, doesn’t the shuttle have to match the position and the velocity of the ISS? That, in my naive guess, would mean that the part could be left parked next to the ISS, as it would be in the same orbit as the ISS.

Or would that cause too much disruption in the orbit of the ISS?

IANA particularly knowledgable space enthusiast… but I found this cool orbiter simulation online that might prove very educational:

It’s free. And it’s also very hard. I did manage to get lost in space once, but usually I just crash right after takeoff.

Don’t they have the option upon lift off, up to a certain altitude, to abort the mission and land at an alternate sight?
They couldn’t jettison the payload in that situation could they?
Although I realize that you wouldn’t have to re-enter earth’s orbit you would still be traveling at a high rate of speed.

Calculating the orbit would be no problem at all, but it’d still be expensive. I can’t think of any situation where it would be cheaper to bring the object back down than to just build a new one on Earth (unless there’s sentimental value, like putting the Hubble in a museum or something).

On the other hand: Everything in low earth orbit needs to be boosted now and then, or its orbit will decay from friction with the atmosphere (yes, there’s still some atmosphere up there… Damn little, but it adds up). A truss designed to be attached to the ISS probably doesn’t have its own station-keeping thrusters, so it’s going to be coming down eventually. And NASA would have little or no control over when and where it comes down, which could (if it’s large enough) mean damage to property or lives. So they probably wouldn’t want to just jettison it.