MAF line up next External Tanks

by Chris Bergin

The Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans are preparing to send ET-118 to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on May 30. The tank is set to fly with Atlantis on STS-115 (STS-300).

Meanwhile, ET-123, which will fly with Discovery on STS-116, is undergoing its final stages of retrofitting, following its role as a test article.

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On March 15, ET-118 was moved by Transportation and Handling crews into Building 420, Cell 2, following good progress during its retrofitting in Final Assembly.

Bonding of the Developmental Flight Instrumentation (DFI) cable tray accelerometers has been completed for both the Liquid Oxygen Tank and Liquid Hydrogen Tank.

These instruments will fly for the first time on ET-118, given ET-119 – which will fly with Discovery on STS-121 this summer – was shipped to KSC before the additions could be made.

‘DFI will provide flight load data from the cable tray during ascent,’ said James Moffett, senior manager of Mechanical Assembly at MAF.


Thermal Protection Systems spraying and trimming will continue on ET-118’s longerons, which are attachment points for the thrust struts. Technicians also will continue installing the drip lip to reduce ice formation on the bellows.

The work is verified in part through the dissection of a mock-up panel and plug pull activities that are ongoing. Other spare ET parts being used for testing have come from ET-120, which was sent back to MAF, following two tanking tests with STS-114 – both of which showed anomalies during propellant loading.

ET-123 moved into Cell A of the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) for flange retrofitting last month. The cell had been empty since ET-122 was removed following roof damage during Hurricane Katrina. Currently, technicians are removing foam from around the flange.

‘Bolts that join the LH2/Intertank flange together are being changed out and reversed, and much of that work has been completed,’ added Moffett.

‘Technicians will then apply a sealant on the bolts to eliminate any liquid nitrogen leak path. Finally, technicians will spray/inject a foam application around the bolts technicians will vent other areas of the Intertank foam.

‘These combined steps help reduce both the probability and size of any potential foam loss.’

ET-123 is scheduled to move from Cell A to Final Assembly on May 12 and later go to Building 420 prior to shipment to KSC.

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