NASA may require ‘Ares I’ pad for STS-117

by Chris Bergin

NASA is still trying to officially bring Pad 39A into operation for STS-117 and may switch back to 39B – the pad that will soon begin morphing into the Ares I launch pad – for the March launch of Shuttle Atlantis.

Pad 39A was last used for the ill-fated launch of Shuttle Columbia in 2003, before beginning refurbishment. However, shuttle managers late in the week were still trying to confirm if the pad can be brought back into launch operations in time for STS-117, with a cut-off decision date fast approaching.

**Over 3000mb of STS-116 onwards related presentions and documentation available on L2 ** 

STS-117 Flight Plans and Mission Handbooks (800 pages worth – non generic). STS-125 and LON-326 (Hubble Rescue) Information. Pad 39B Funding Presentation. Twice Weekly Shuttle Stand-up/Integration Reports (Expansive) and more available on L2 – with Ares I resources listed at the end of this article.

**LIVE news updates on Atlantis STS-117 Processsing Flow**

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While there hasn’t be any hint of a delay in finalizing work on 39A, notes in the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report point to a fast approaching deadline, before which NASA need to be assured they can Atlantis from 39A, or move the NET (No Earlier Than) March 15 launch to 39B.

‘Managers are meeting with the team (on Friday) to discuss all the details of Pad A to ensure that it is definitely ready, and that we would not have to go to Pad B for any reason,’ noted the report. ‘(Next Tuesday) is the drop dead date for when we would have to make this decision. Will go through this thoroughly and make the decision that we are definitely going to Pad A.’

The specifics on why NASA has found itself unsure of which pad they will be launching Atlantis from are not know, although a follow-on note did speak of one issue with the pad, without making the link to the deadline.

‘Found issue (Wednesday) night while doing preps for PGHM (Payload Ground Handling Mechanism) proof loads. Found an interference with PGHM on a recently completed mod. Now reviewing the interference. There is a panel that needs to be removed and modified and then put back up again.

‘We are impacting the schedule for the proof loads to be completed. There is a potential of impacting the dummy payload ops scheduled for early next week. Have been in contact with Boeing and are working this.’

Pad 39B was set to be stood down from shuttle operations after STS-116, but the decision to have a LON (Launch On Need) rescue flight with Shuttle Discovery on the pad when Atlantis launches to service the Hubble Space Telescope on STS-125 in September 2008 ensured the pad would remain operation for the shuttle.

Following the Hubble mission, the pad will then be handed over to Constellation for preparation work for the Ares I-1R test flight at the end of the decade, a large delay to what was originally an April 1, 2007 handover date.

Some work is due to be carried out on the 39B complex regardless, most notably the construction of three 600 feet tall lightning protection towers which will protect the tall Ares I vehicle while on the pad.

Soon after the handover from shuttle to Constellation, NASA will carry out major work on Pad 39B, most notably the construction of a huge rollercoaster escape system, which is fast moving towards asking companies to bid on contract, following last year’s official approval for the system.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares – Jan 3. Ares I-1R Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I extra solids graphics and info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presenation.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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