Processing flow going well for Shuttle fleet

by Chris Bergin

NASA is on schedule for the planned rollover of Shuttle orbiter Discovery to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) next Wednesday at 6am EDT, in a milestone event towards the launch of the third mission of the year, STS-116.

Issues relating to the orbiter are being ironed out, as STS-116 closes in on its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at the end of November.

**Up-to-date Shuttle memos and presentations downloadable and available on L2**

**LIVE news updates on Discovery STS-116 Processing Flow**

**LIVE news updates on Atlantis STS-117 (STS-317) Processsing Flow**

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Discovery is in her OPF 3 (Orbiter Processing Facility) undergoing closeouts, following the closure of her payload bay doors last week. Work on finalizing Discovery’s Thermal Protection System (TPS) is also going to plan.

‘Still working in OPF toward November 1st rollover. Plan to close aft by Wednesday,’ said Shuttle manager Robert Lightfoot on October 23 flow integration. ‘Trying to get transporter in Monday morning next week. Plan to roll out Orbiter by 06:00 EST Wednesday next week.’

One issue did arise during the closing of Discovery’s payload bay doors, although the issue is classed as minor.

‘Closed payload bay doors last week, but picked up IPR 63 on TCLs for not picking up limit switches during latching,’ added Lightfoot on the memo. ‘Cycled and latched again, and performed nominally. Had engineering discussions and decided to open doors today to narrow down problem. Often, zero g system does not quite simulate zero g, causing problems closing latches. That is likely cause.

‘Have been working rigging versus TPS issues with nose landing gear. Feel have good configuration now. One more cycle today to verify tile steps and mechanical rigging. Have no cavities left for tile bond. Had 169 total bonds. 92 percent complete on pre-rollout inspection.’

Atlantis has more time to work on the remaining elements of her processing flow, although the rollover date change is related to the recent alterations of the Shuttle manifest, as opposed to the LON (Launch On Need) target.

‘Rollover moved to February 7th,’ continued the memo, before updating the status of Atlantis’ TPS, follow her recent STS-115 mission. ‘Have 95 cavities at this point. Expect about 160 cavities. Vendor scheduled to perform chin panel repair this week.’

Atlantis will be powered down this week to complete a modification to wiring – likely in the Point Sensor Box (PSB) – which is related to the ECO (Engine Cut Off) sensor readings from the External Tank (ET). Atlantis will be powered back up a few days later.

Endeavour is in a very smooth processing flow, as she continues to make strides towards her first launch since being stood down in the wake of the Columbia disaster. Coming out of a major modification period, Endeavour is being prepared for next summer’s STS-118. Rollover is now targeted for May 28.

Meanwhile at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), work is progressing towards a December 17 shipping date for ET-124 – Atlantis’ ET for both STS-117 and the LON requirement STS-317.

‘Critical path still thru bipod mods, which is about 70 percent complete,’ noted an update from Lockheed Martin. ‘Bipod activity now is wedge spraying. Almost all RTF (Return To Flight) mods in progress. Of these, GO2 diffuser R&R is 65 percent complete. PAL ramp removal and repair to LOX and H2 tanks about 80 percent complete.

‘Plan BX spray repair to LOX and H2 tanks by end of week. Extension activities of LOX and H2 tanks about 50 percent complete. Intertank venting about 70 percent complete. Work on camera activities about 25 percent complete.

‘Early shakedown of tank in areas where access was completed is about 10 percent complete. Drip lip activities proceeding and are cleaning up at 1106 station. Longeron reapplication activities about 35 percent complete.’

There are about nine External Tanks in various stages of production at the New Orleans facility, although ET-117 had already been completed, only to be shipped back to MAF from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), following the finalization of modification plans.

That tank – which will fly with Endeavour on STS-118 – is now classed as one week ahead of schedule, with upper flange sprays in works, along with early work on longerons, bipods and camera areas of the tank.

Testing is continuing on the options for the final design for the Ice Frost Ramps (IFRs), ahead of the design review next month.

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