FRR rumoured to be over – launch set?

by Chris Bergin

The Flight Readiness Review (FRR) – which was to take two to three days – is already over, according to sources. No official statement has yet been made to verify this information.

After a number of presentations to managers – that included the attendance of NASA boss Mike Griffin today at the Kennedy Space Center – the FRR was drawn to a conclusion, with the launch date about to be officially set in a window that opens July 13.

The FRR is usually held approximately two weeks prior to launch and is a comprehensive review of all activities/elements necessary for the safe and successful conduct of all operations from prelaunch through post–landing and recovery operations – as it is officially stated.

The readiness of the Space Shuttle vehicle, flight crew, and payloads is determined at this review. A signed Certification of Flight Readiness endorsement certifies that all have successfully completed their Flight Preparation Processes and a launch date is set by the FRR.

It was expected to take two days – some claiming a possible third day of reviews – thus leading to the surprise the FRR would be over on the first day as sources are noting. However, sources note that at least some of the managers from NASA and contractor facilities around the US – in attendance at the FRR – are heading back from KSC to their various bases.

FRRs normally take two days, making this FRR – especially relating to a Return to Flight mission – highly unusual, if confirmed

One of the main points of the FRR was a chart shown by John Muratore, NASA’s manager for shuttle systems engineering and integration, that pointed out some of the effects on geyser potential from the LOX feedline heater – a new modification aimed to reduce the potential of ice debris, which could potentially strike the Orbiter on assent. The chart showed the chances of increased geysering to be next to nil.

Another issue noted was an ice debris concern on the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate – The part of the ET where all the umbilicals connect – GH2 vent line and the GHe and GN2 purges. The second Tanking Test had shown that ice build-up was in excess of LLC parameters.

It is also rumoured that Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) – who had been have been at the centre of concerns over a new double weave LH2 diffuser, blamed for the over-cycling on the pre-pressurisation on the ET during the two Tanking Tests – have given their ‘blessing’ to points raised at the FRR. ET-121 – which will fly with Discovery on STS-114 – has the previously used single weave diffuser.

Should NASA officially note the FRR has been worked through successfully, Griffin is then expected to announce the setting of the launch date for July 13 – in a window that stretches to the 31st of July.

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