NASA signing off on over 500 FRR documents

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers will be going through some serious supplies of coffee, as they read through over 500 documents at the two day Flight Readiness Review (FRR), ahead of the upcoming STS-116 mission.

No major issues have shown up at the midway point late Tuesday, as NASA aim to give final approval for the NET (No Earlier Than) December 7 launch date for the third Shuttle mission of the year.
**Over 2100mb of STS-116 onwards related presentions and mission documentation are 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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Led by the highly respected Shuttle manager Wayne Hale, every department of the Shuttle program gains the opportunity to give overviews on their respective status – and any concerns/questions they may have – before the mission is officially approved to proceed as planned.

Pre-empted by the MOD FRR (large amounts of documentation on L2), documents and presentations have been worked on for the past few months, ensuring a smooth flow towards this final milestone meeting.

The amount of work being undertaken was noted by the latest communication to be sent around the Shuttle family, the November 27 Shuttle Standup/Integration report, which warned managers, ‘(we) have over 500 presentation charts for FRR. Everyone should plan to stay until about 5:00 p.m. CST Wednesday at FRR (recommend don’t plan early departure flight).’

Main topics of debate include the issue of YERO (Year End Rollover), which passed October simulation testing, but not to the level of confidence that allowed NASA to stick with a launch window that breached Discovery being on orbit during the change of year. However, a contingency does remain for Discovery to be in space on New Years Eve, so long as she’s docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at that time.

The latest data on External Tank photography, in order to check for levels of foam liberation after ascent, and the latest CSCS (Crew Shuttle Contingency Support) levels are also being updated at the FRR.

Also popping up on the agenda are continued evaluations on potential conflicts that have been outside of the control of NASA, such as the Russian decision to continue with the jettison of items from last week’s troublesome spacewalk. The Russians claimed it was too late in the day for the EVA schedule to be changed to allay NASA’s concerns.

It is still to be evaluated whether items, such as the removed covers from a Russian experiment on the ISS, now floating in space, are a potential debris threat to the soon-to-arrive Discovery, one of a couple of ISS related topics that are still undecided, heading into their FRR talks.

‘Discussing re-boost plan on Wednesday for Flight Day 3 rendezvous for all launch dates through December 20th. Have back-up re-boost plan in work for launching after 20th.

‘Last week during EVA, the Russians had the crew jettison bags and MLI. USAF working on tracking/vectors of this material for the ISS trajectory plan to ensure there are no Orbiter concerns after launch. Should have data this week.’

Meanwhile, launch processing for both Discovery and Atlantis – the latter required for LON (Launch On Need) support for STS-116 – are proceeding well, with focus back on the External Tanks.

Concerns that some work might be required on Discovery’s ET at the pad have now been dismissed following evaluations that the tank doesn’t require its foam trimming between the LO2 feedline flange and LH2 intertank flange.

‘Presenting status at Noon Board of foam interference between LO2 feedline flange and LH2 intertank flange,’ noted the Standup report. ‘KSC took measurements (referencing bipod spindle). Interference under cryo conditions is half what previously thought, which brings interference back in family. Therefore, will not trim foam on pad.’

Atlantis’ tank is also slightly behind schedule in final processing at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), as it’s prepared for shipping out of New Orleans on December 17.

‘Running slightly behind schedule, but have recovery plan in effect. As have been reported, had difficulty with spraying drip lip area (1106 station), but this is complete. Making progress in other areas of tank; completed longeron area, and work on extensions is almost complete.’

The next tanks in the flow, ET-117 and ET-125 are both enjoying smooth processing.

Processing for LON-317 – and Atlantis’ primary mission – STS-117 are closing in on two key milestones for next week. Both Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) will begin stacking on December 4, the same date installation work will begin on Atlantis’ three SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines).

‘Working in shop on three engines (2059, 2052, 2057) to install in Atlantis on December 4th,’ confirmed the Integration report. ‘Now in final pre-installation walkdowns of those engines. OV-104 (STS-117) SRB stacking planned to start December 4th.’

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