NASA approve STS-116 launch date

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers have concluded their two day FRR (Flight Readiness Review) by approving the NET (No Earlier Than) December 7 launch of Shuttle Discovery on STS-116.

During the meeting, managers evaluated all updated concerns relating to the 12 day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – including related issues of what will be the first night launch since the loss of Columbia.

**Over 2100mb of STS-116 onwards related presentions and mission documentation available on L2 **

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

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

The launch window will extend to December 17 – with a return to evaluations on whether they can launch after that date, given the conflict of YERO (Year End Rollover), which would require Discovery to be docked on the ISS during the end of year event.

Following STS-115 being called as the most complex assembly flight in Shuttle history, Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier noted that STS-116 will be even more complex, as the mission carries out what is being tagged as a re-wiring of the station, following the installation of the P3/P4 truss elements on the previous launch.

‘We’ve had a very thorough review over the past two days covering a variety of topics, ‘said Gerstenmaier. ‘We spent a lot of time talking about the complexity of his mission, which starts off with the installation of the P5 truss segment – which has two inches of (robotic) arm clearance (during installation).

‘We’re also going to retract the P6 Array on the station, after that has been deployed for six years now. We’ve spent a lot of time checking we can do that retraction correctly.’

Gerstenmaier also noted how the complexity of the mission was brought to light during the FRR, as the technical community gave their overviews on stations during the review.

‘Another way to look at the complexity of this mission is by how many commands we’ll be sending to the ISS. On a typical day we’d expect to send about 800 commands a day. On this mission we’ll be sending over 4,000 commands for three days.

‘So that gives you an idea of just how much command traffic has to come from the ground to Station to carry out elements of this mission on orbit. That really struck me during the review.’

Meanwhile, Shuttle manager Wayne Hale paid tribute to the workforce for realizing the NET December 7 launch date – which was the first time a NET date on the schedule has actually been moved up, rather than pushed down, as normally seen with processing flows.

‘As we were going through several issues in vehicle processing, the team found a couple of items they needed to call a timeout for,’ noted Hale. ‘They stopped work, and carried out the processing properly. I’m very proud of the team for taking the right approach to the schedule, which is to say it comes second to doing the work properly and making sure we’re safe.

‘That is probably as good an omen for the future of the space program as I could ask for.’

Hale also noted that collecting imagery of any foam liberation on ascent won’t be as restricted as the night launch scenario would lead people to assume. The recent night booster firing by ATK has proved that the lighting conditions caused by the intense light from the exhaust will allow for most cameras to be able to gain the required data.

‘We had a marvellous night firing of a solid rocket motor out in Utah, and we proved the camera on the vehicle will still be able to get quite a lot of data for us,’ he said. ‘For the first two minutes of the first stage of ascent, we should get some good data.

‘I’m looking forward to a really spectacular launch.’

Further articles will follow.

**INFINITY: 10 minute STS-115 MUSIC VIDEO** –
(Video section is FREE, but you need to sign up as a member of the forum to enter the video section of the site. We only use your e-mail to send you your password. It will not be used for spam etc.)

** Job Opportunities** 

Related Articles