Shuttle fleet prepare for 2007 missions

by Chris Bergin

All three of NASA’s shuttle orbiters have hit the ground running at the start of their 2007 launch processing, ahead of up to five missions this year.

2007 will see the long awaited return of Endeavour to the operational fold, following her major modification period, as the fleet pick up the pace on the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

**Over 2500mb of STS-116 onwards related presentions and mission documentation available on L2 ** 

STS-116: On-Orbit Vs. Post-Landing TPS Tile Damage Comparisons (Five presentations).  In-depth NASA Ops Report for all three vehicles – Jan 3.  ATK Launch Systems Update Presentation from STS-117 to STS-122 – Jan 3.  PRCB: ET-120 Status and Repair Plan – and more available on L2.

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Endeavour is preparing for her primary launch with STS-118 – currently NET (No Earlier Than) June 11, although she is targeting to be ready to fly for May 8 as Launch On Need flight LON-318, in support of Atlantis’ STS-117.

Housed inside OPF-2, Endeavour’s payload bay doors were re-opened on Monday, as launch processing continues unabated. The major processing work includes leak and functionality checks on her APUs (Auxiliary Power Units) and MPS (Main Propulsion System) – the unsung star of Return To Flight, while ASA (Aerosurface Survo Amplifier) boxes gain supporting monitoring equipment to evaluate the issue of ‘Tin Whiskers.’

Less glamorous work is being carried out on Atlantis in OPF-1, where she also had her payload bay doors re-opened following the holidays – a period that saw the waterproofing of her Thermal Protection System (TPS) completed.

Other tasks being completed include ‘Chin panel 24-hour re-torque. Carrier panel installation. APU lube oil service. and payload bay centerline camera adjust,’ according to the NASA Daily Ops Report for January 3.

The report added that all three orbiters had no issues over the Christmas period, with only a few minor water and power outages reported. ‘The 2006 Holiday Outage went exceptionally well, with all objectives achieved and minimal impact on operations,’ added the report.

Meanwhile, according to an ATK presentation, also dated January 3, the stacking of Atlantis’ two Solid Rocket Boosters is almost completed, with the next set of solids currently in preparation for shipping to the Kennedy Space Center for Endeavour. STS-118’s SRB stacking is scheduled to take place on March 13.

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Atlantis is due to be stacked with ET-124 and her SRBs (Booster Integration – BI-129, Reusable Solid Rocket Motors – RSRM-96) on February 2, according to ATK.

Discovery, back in OPF-3 following her successful STS-116, was safed soon after rolling off the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) after landing and will soon begin an extended rest ahead of STS-122, currently NET October 17, with LON-322 requirements dating September 28.

‘All roll-in and safing activities were completed 2nd shift on Christmas Eve,’ added the NASA Ops Report. ‘Power up yesterday was delayed due to a bad GSE connector saver. Connector repaired and ready for power up this morning. Powered up successfully at 0532 this morning (Monday). PLBD strongbacks installed yesterday with PLBD opening scheduled for today (Monday).’

The other major element of the Shuttle, the External Tanks, are continuing to process through the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) without any major problems on note.

ET-124 – for Atlantis and STS-117 – is safely in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), with ET-117 the next tank due to be shipped – for Endeavour and STS-118.

Troubleshooting plans are still being carried out on ET-120’s requirement to be part of the remaining shuttle manifest, in order to mitigate a delay in Lockheed Martin’s ability to supply ETs in time for the missions as they are currently scheduled.

At present, all three orbiters are on schedule to be processed for their respective launch dates, although – as always – natural ‘stretch’ in the FAWG (Flight Assignment Working Group) manifest is common place. A new manifest is due shortly.

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