Atlantis arrives at Pad 39A ahead of STS-122
Shuttle Atlantis has arrived at Launch Pad 39A, following her rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) Saturday morning.
Her mission, STS-122, is undergoing a final round of refinements, which include the potential inclusion of the outstanding EVA and repair to the starboard SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint) on the ISS. Also, hopes the launch window could be extended by a day appear to have been dashed.
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L2: STS-122 to STS-127 documentation already available.
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**LIVE updates on Discovery STS-120 Post Flight and STS-124 Processing**
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**LIVE news updates on Endeavour STS-123 Processing**
Atlantis’ 11 day mission will be the fourth launch of the year for the shuttle fleet, pending approval of a launch date – currently NET (No Earlier Than) December 6 – as work continues to prepare the International Space Station (ISS) for the arrival of Atlantis’ payload, the European Columbus module.
Hopes that an additional day could be added on to the end of the short December 6-13 launch window do not appear to be viable, with planning information this week noting: ‘Working on expansion of launch window for higher beta. Doesn’t look like we’ll get extra day.’
Regardless, Atlantis and the STS-122 stack remain on track to support the opening of the launch window, should ISS stage work allow, with only one issue being discussed by shuttle managers.
‘Looking at ET umbilical sep camera. Able to command it to take photos, but are troubleshooting problems with downloading photos,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report, an issue that is not believed to be related to Atlantis’ debuting of the new ET Umbilical Camera Flash (Sync Cable and Flash) modification.
‘Two separate legs of firmware capability built into system. Will switch from A leg to B leg. Think it’s a fire wire issue. Pictures are still within the camera. Issue is transmission to ground. Launching with dark scenario for this next flight anyway. This is not a constraint to rollout to pad.’
Flight Readiness Reviews are continuing for the mission, ahead of next week’s SSP (Space Shuttle Program) FRR. While the reviews aren’t working major issues, they are challenged with a number of agency wishes, including what may be an early solution to the starboard SARJ issue.
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As seen prior to the arrival of Discovery on STS-120, increased drive motor current levels observed during Starboard SARJ rotation indicated the joint was experiencing increased friction levels. A change in signature and upward trends have been noticed since STS-118.
‘Per ISS request, inspection of the Starboard SARJ Cover 12 was conducted on EVA-2 of Discovery’s mission. The crew reported metal shavings sticking to the race-ring, brackets and other areas. The Starboard SARJ was taken off of Autotrack.
The scheduled Flight Day 11, EVA 4 was changed to a dedicated spacewalk for a more thorough inspection of the remaining 21 SARJ covers. However, EVA 4 was rescheduled for historic P6 4B SAW (Solar Array Wing) repair, after a tear was suffered on panels 36 & 37 (bays 11, 12, and 13 from the tip) during deployment.
‘Te current plan is for the Starboard SARJ to be rotated by Direct Positioning only (No Autotrack) as needed. The ISS has started discussions regarding Starboard SARJ remediation,’ noted one of 12 post STS-120 IFA (In Flight Anomaly) presentations, which received an answer on the latest Stand-up.
‘SARJ story going to Space Station Program Control Board to look at options for STS-122. Crew compartment folks have been carrying parallel work to determine where to put DLA and trundle bearings. This is 350 pounds of stowage rearrangement and may require another Delta Bench Review.’
Atlantis’ payload has already arrived at the pad, although a ‘strange’ issue is being reviewed. It is not thought to be a problem. but will require confirmation ahead of Atlantis’ ride uphill.
‘Columbus came in unexpectedly lighter than expected when it was weighed,’ added the Stand-up. ‘Looking at affect on Verification Loads Analysis.’
It’s a busy time for the shuttle workforce, with continuing post flight reviews for STS-120 flowing in, whilst preparations for STS-122′s launch are ongoing. This – once again and deservedly – earned the praise of shuttle manager Wayne Hale.
‘Outstanding work was done all the way around on this mission. Everyone should be proud and should take time to appreciate this fact, because there is another mission coming. Will begin Program FRR on Tuesday. Although there are not many IFAs or special topics, there are other items of interest.
‘It is thrilling to be part of this Program.’
A full round up of the FRR presentations generated this week – and available to download in L2 – will be added to forthcoming articles.
L2 members: All documentation and quotes - from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.
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