STS-116 milestone – A Small Victory

by Chris Bergin

Workers are in the process of handing over Shuttle Discovery to rollout and pad crew, as STS-116 draws closer to making its target launch window – which opens on December 6.

The continued smooth flow towards the accelerated launch schedule for Discovery gained a note from Shuttle manager Wayne Hale, who praised the workforce for this achievement, ahead of Wednesday’s rollout to the pad.

**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**

The accelerated launch schedule was seen by many as ‘ambitious’ – especially with the amount of work that was still to be completed on both Discovery and Atlantis, the latter required for LON (Launch On Need) support.

However, with Hale – regarded by most people as the best Shuttle manager ever to head the program – at the helm, Discovery starts her trip to Pad 39B with several days of contingency remaining in the flow, ahead of the 10 day window that opens on the 6th.

‘Wayne Hale said many thought a few months ago we could not accelerate STS-116 launch one week,’ noted the latest Shuttle integration report. ‘This was accomplished, and he is proud of work on this.’

A key element of supporting STS-116 is the ability to have Atlantis ready for LON support (LON-317). Now that Discovery is set to head to the pad, workers have been transferred to that goal of finishing work on Atlantis.

STS-116 is now heading into the MOD FRR (Flight Readiness Review) on Wednesday (presentations available on L2 now), ahead of the full FRR later this month.

‘Resources dedicated to OV-103 (Discovery) to get ready for rollout, now being shifted back to OV-104 (Atlantis) and OV-105 (Endeavour),’ added the report, which listed outstanding work on Discovery’s sister ships.

Such work included the change out of black boxes for S-band antenna, which is hoped will fix the problem of S-band dropouts seen on last flight (STS-115), and the completion of nose cap repairs.

As of this morning, Integrated drag chute operations are ‘in work’ – with payload bay door rigging also progressing. She was also powered up at 8am on Tuesday.

Endeavour was also powered up this morning at the same time, with crew module hatch seal removal and replacement in work, along with APU leak checks and functionality checks in work.

SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) elements are already arriving and being prepared for both STS-117 and STS-118. ‘STS-117 right forward assembly and both aft assemblies for STS-118 going to Ground Operations.’

Also buoying the processing flow is the status of the External Tanks, with all flows now on schedule.

‘ET-124-This is next tank. Tank due out December 17th. On schedule. Completed sprays to address foam thicknesses for PAL ramp. Made progress in drip lip locations. Some longeron sprays completed. ET-117-This is next tank following ET-124 Vertical in Cell A. On schedule. Plan first series of lower sprays this Sunday. ET-114-On schedule.’

A couple of outstanding issues that have been previously noted also received mentions, with the crack that was found on Discovery’s landing gear – and the debris strike that punched a hole in one of Atlantis’ radiator panels on orbit during STS-115.

‘During rollover, someone noticed small crack in corner of bracket holding right door uplock proximity sensor,’ noted the report. ‘Not structural member. Only potential concern would be sensor becoming FOD inside wheel well if crack were more extensive.

‘Approved using tape to secure sensor for now, and will fix next flight. (Engineering) representative wants to know who spotted crack, because (person) deserves recognition.’

On the MMOD strike, a level of testing has taken place at White Sands to help future evaluations of such incidents. Testing has seen twenty hypervelocity shots at the radiator panels, to gain engineering data.

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