Discovery arrives at pad in good health

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Discovery has arrived at launch pad 39B this morning, marking another milestone in her preparations for STS-116, which is set to launch early in December.

Among STS-116 many milestones will be the inclusion of a new “Advanced Health Management System (AHMS),” Boeing confirmed Tuesday, which it is hoped will reduce risk of main engine failure by 15 percent.

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The new system, AHMS, has been coming for some time, noted former astronaut Steve Oswald, vice president and program manager of the Boeing Space Shuttle program on Tuesday, who also noted the system could prove to be a useful technology outside of the SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines) for which they are primarily designed.

AHMS will not be a fully working system on Discovery, debuting for the purpose of evaluations on this – and the next – flight with Atlantis on STS-117, in ‘monitor mode.’ It should then become fully functional piece of hardware for all flights thereafter.

Should the system prove useful, Oswald noted that the system could be a viable component for other engines, such as the J-2X, which is set to power the upper stage of the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle – the replacement for the Shuttle fleet.

The system has been developed by a large section of the Shuttle engineering community, including MSFC, JSC, KSC, SSC Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc United Space Alliance Boeing Honeywell, Inc.

While the SSMEs have a superb service history with the Shuttle, engineers believe that having an advanced single controller in charge of the engine sensors is the best way forward for the final flights of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, final preparations for Discovery’s rollout went to plan, although there were several technical issues with the mating operation inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

‘Sling was to be removed last Thursday, but right aft separation bolt strain gages read erratically,’ noted the latest flow integration report (full reports on L2). ‘First bolt R&R’d (Removed and Replaced. Had same type issues on second bolt.

‘Engineering community decided to relax torque on bolts, and saw more consistent measurements. Last bolt remained installed, and performed six and 12 hours checks, which were both good. Sling was removed before the weekend.’

Discovery’s journey to the pad will last well into the morning over in Florida. This article will be updated throughout the rollout of the Shuttle.

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