Both STS-122 and STS-123 have slipped in the latest NASA FAWG (Flight Assignment Working Group) launch manifest, reducing the amount of shuttle missions in 2007 to four.
The moves set up a run of six launches in 2008, the year which will be highlighted by STS-125 – the mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for a final time.
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The two moves are both listed as ‘ISS requests’ – which refer to conflicts in the schedule of visiting vehicles to the station, namely the on-going changes to the Soyuz and shuttle arrival and departure dates.
At present, due to a previous change in the shuttle manifest, Soyuz TMA-11’s October arrival ultimately conflicts with STS-122, causing Discovery’s launch to move to November, pushing STS-123 with Endeavour into 2008.
Discovery’s return to action post-STS-116 was set for October 17 with STS-122, but has now been pushed back to November 5. STS-123 – Endeavour’s second flight since coming out of her Major Modification Period – was set to take place on December 8, but now moves into 2008, with a new NET (No Earlier Than) date of January 17.
Both orbiter’s LON (Launch On Need) rescue mission requirements remain unchanged.
Unrelated moves are also being evaluated to add a seventh crewmember to STS-124, which would see some of the cargo on Atlantis’ flight being moved to STS-123 to aid such an addition to take place. Further details on those evaluations will follow in the coming days.
Meanwhile, processing on the fleet continues at a strong pace, with post flight work on Discovery going to schedule, along with launch preparations on Atlantis and Endeavour, as they are both readied to carry out the next three shuttle missions.
On Discovery, Vent Door functionality checks were delayed on Friday, due to the unavailability of required consoles in Firing Room 2A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which monitor the tests on the orbiter. The test will now be carried on Monday.
Discovery’s SPACEHAB module/payload was removed from her cargo bay in the OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) on Friday, while the SPACEHAB duct will be removed from the orbiter on Sunday.
Troubleshooting on an event timer indicated a bad contact on thumb wheel or a bad cable; a breakout box will be installed at the Timer Display Panel to further isolate the failure to the thumbwheel contacts or the timer binary decoder.
Work is continuing over the weekend, with ‘SCAPE ops for hyper de-servicing and APU catch bottle drains are scheduled for Sunday,’ according to the Jan 5 NASA Launch Ops Status Report. ‘Weekend work: Discovery will be powered up on Sunday to support SCAPE ops for hyper de-servicing and APU catch bottle drains.’
Work to ready Endeavour for her first mission in years is progressing well in OPF-2, with the orbiter beginning to take shape as major propulsion elements are re-installed into her body.
Notable work taking place at the end of the week included the left hand OMS (Orbital Manoeuvring System) pod installation preparations, which is now in the OPF, ready for installation on Endeavour next Tuesday.
Several leak and functionality checks are ongoing on the orbiter, which has her payload bays doors open for the successful deployment test of her KU Band antenna, which will beam down TV pictures of her STS-118 flight, which is due to launch at the end of June.
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United Space Alliance engineers also noted that some of Endeavour’s Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS) brushings were not found to be seated properly on their attach points on the orbiter, which has led to a similar investigation on Atlantis.
‘Data from attach point gap dimensions before and after final torque on 104 (Atlantis) will be evaluated by engineering again to determine if any rework will be required; results are expected mid-next week,’ added the extensive Jan 5 report. ‘TPS (Thermal Protection System) rework will be an issue if inspections are required.’
Engineers are also working over the weekend on ‘Cabin air recirc/maintenance, forward compartment closeout/hatch ops, flipper door closeouts, TPS ops, SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engines) carrier panels, and pyro hi-pots.’
In the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), Atlantis’ twin Solid Rocket Boosters, know as Booster Integration (BI-129) have completed their stacking operation and are now being readied for the mating of the External Tank (ET-124). Segment Leak Checks and Segment Joint Closeouts have also been completed.
While a few closeout operations are being completed this weekend, an issue has arisen with ET-124, which is undergoing evaluations. ‘Unknown Contamination on LO2 Tank. Contamination was removed yesterday and engineering evaluation is currently in work,’ noted the report.
It is not uncommon for such issues to be seen on a tank, shortly after being shipped from Michoud (MAF) to KSC. Last year, ET-118 was observed to be leaking water out of its IT GSE access door, before being cleared for flight with Atlantis on STS-115.
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