Atlantis arrives in the VAB

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle orbiter Atlantis has made her short trip to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in preparation for STS-115. NASA and United Space Alliance workers are now preparing her to be lifted over the high bay for mating with the External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters.

The NET (No Earlier Than) launch date of August 27 will see Atlantis carry the P3/P4 truss section to the ISS – the first post-Columbia assembly mission.






Atlantis left OPF-1 (Orbiter Processing Facility) this morning with a procession of engineers and technicians that have been making her ready for the first launch in four years of OV-104.

Tagged by Shuttle manager Wayne Hale as the ‘most complicated assembly mission in the history of human space flight,’ STS-115’s payload consists of a huge structure that will expand when attached to the ISS. Large solar panels will deploy on the truss, providing power for future modules that will join the ISS on later missions.

The 12 day mission will also carry the P4 Photovoltaic (PV) Module (PVM), containing two beta gimbal/PV array assemblies, two Beta Gimbal Transition Structures (BGTSs), one Integrated Equipment Assembly (IEA) – Type I, and associated cabling, according to the STS-115 Flight Plan.

The cargo element includes six battery sets, PV radiator, two Unpressurized Cargo Carrier Attach Systems (UCCAS), Solar Array Rotating Joint (SARJ) and preintegrated Orbiter Space Vision System (OSVS) targets. The CE occupies the majority of the payload bay and is attached in the payload bay by four active longeron trunnion latches and two active keel trunnion latches, plus six unpowered and three powered experiments.

During the second half of STS-121, Atlantis was taken off LON (Launch On Need) readiness, which was to support her sister Discovery. STS-121 mission was deemed a huge success, standing down Atlantis when OV-103 was cleared for re-entry.

The processing of Atlantis didn’t suffer any major setbacks, with the launch date only becoming endangered when ET-118 arrived at the Kennedy Space Center with a large amount of work required before being mated with the twin solid rocket boosters.

However, a speedy changeout of ET-118’s ECO (Engine Cut Off) sensors reduced the schedule pressure on preparing the stack to be rolled out of the VAB, with Atlantis set to head to the launch pad ahead of schedule.

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