Pad 39B’s transition – Hubble rescue role and Ares future mapped out

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers are continuing to build their roadmap for Pad 39B’s transition to Ares, in tandem with keeping the pad available to host one final shuttle, a shuttle they hope they’ll never have to launch.

Work will be conducted – including the construction of three giant lightning towers – around the pad for Ares, prior to the Hubble mission (STS-125), which will launch from 39A with Atlantis, while Discovery is sat on 39B as the rescue shuttle.
Huge amounts of VSE related insider news and presentations – THE most comprehensive place to follow Ares/Orion development – are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.


**ARES V / Mars Transport Vehicle (MTV) LIVE UPDATE PAGES**

Plans by Constellation for the 600ft high towers that will protect Ares I from lightning strikes, and a presentation to NASA’s PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) relating to the Hubble LON (Launch On Need) role, show the attention surrounding Pad 39B only intensified after its ‘final’ launch, carried out in December 2006 with STS-116.

The decision to approve the final servicing mission to Hubble was not as cut-and-dry a decision as first thought, with the rescue/LON requirement playing a major role in reducing the risk factor – documented as a 15 percent reduction in ‘risk’ – which satisfied NASA Safety enough to give their blessing for the mission to go ahead.

This, the fifth mission to Hubble, will also be the Atlantis’ first – and last – visit to the space telescope, after Hubble was launched by Discovery. Previous HSMs have been carried out by Endeavour, December 1993, Discovery, February 1997, Discovery, December 1999 and Columbia, March 2002.

**Click the image to view the camcorder video recording of HSM mission STS-109’s 2002 launch (free to view for forum members)**

The rescue mission is different to any of the other LON flights, due to Atlantis’ trip into space being the only flight on the remaining shuttle manifest not to have the ‘safe haven’ of the International Space Station (ISS). Even in ‘lifeboat’ mode, a rescue orbiter has to reach the stricken craft within a few weeks, meaning the launch would also require accelerating in the flow.

While a ‘P-t-P’ (Pad to Pad) option was available, the turnaround was too tight to be viable, leading to NASA deciding to hold back the full handover date of Pad 39B to Constellation until after the stand-down was giving during STS-125. Previously, Constellation were set to get their hands on 39B on April 1 of this year.

As outlined in the March 2007 presentation (available on L2), the plan is for the LON orbiter (Discovery) to rollover to High Bay 3 and then out to Pad 39B first. Discovery would sit on the pad while Atlantis was stacked in the opposite High Bay, for rollout two weeks after Discovery. After the stand-down of the LON requirement was giving during STS-125, Discovery would then be transported from Pad B to Pad A and prepared for her primary mission, STS-126.

Pad 39B will not be used for payload integration, given Discovery’s supporting rescue roll would not require any payload for the emergency launch, which allows the pad to undergo a level of Constellation related modifications, so long as they do not interfere with the launch aspects required for Discovery to launch a rescue mission.

‘Constellation modifications for Pad B implemented prior to HST LON will be conducted on a non-interference basis with Shuttle operations and not affect Shuttle flight safety,’ as noted by the 31 page PRCB presentation.

Such work will include a major change to the appearance of the Pad 39B complex, the construction of three 600ft high Lightning Protection System Towers.

Documentation acquired by this site (available on L2) show a huge amount of work has already been undertaken on producing blueprints and guidelines for contractors to use for fabricating these huge structures that will surround the complex. Those blueprints are complete, to the finest detail, as Constellation move towards the actual fabrication of the steel work.

Construction of these towers is expected to start this year, rising out of the ground as huge pylons, with five levels for worker access – the highest being Level E at 482ft – rising yet further to a total height of 594ft. Access to the five levels can be reached by stairs or via the ‘man lift’ that travels up the side of the tower.

Along with the towers – which it has been proposed will be named after Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia – will be nine large downconducters, placed around the complex, which will be anchor points for the massive cables that will stretch across the lightning towers. Foundation work will be the first element of construction to begin, leading to 12 areas of the complex that will undergo major engineering work.

This work is not specifically required ahead of the 2009 test flight of Ares 1-X (1-X being the new name for the Ares I-1 flight. The second test flight is now renamed to Ares I-Y.). For the test flight, NASA will simply add a longer lightning mast on top of 39B to protect the test vehicle.

**Ride home through the fire and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis on STS-115 – And now also with Discovery on STS-116 – TWO Stunning high quality 2hr, 355mb videos – from deorbit burn to post landing**

Meanwhile, shuttle operations on Pad 39B will undergo improvements, with the five areas identified as required to be carried out prior to Discovery’s arrival at the pad, these include:

‘Inspect & Repair Pad B Sound Suppression Water Tank. Inspect and repair corrosion. Previous refurbishment of Pad A tank experience indicates condition of Pad B tank could require extensive repair. Pad B tank has not been inspected since 1995. Inspection results expected in April/May timeframe.

‘Repair Pad B Main Flame Deflector. Prevent degeneration of refractory concrete and associated FOD by inspecting, patch repairing and performing spot corrosion control.

‘FSS/RSS Refurbishment. Perform spot corrosion control on hammerhead crane machine room and support structure – remove corroded items where feasible. Restore Pad B Concrete Slopes. Perform surface and joint sealing only.’

Work on Pad 39B, for the LON flight alone, is expected to cost around $20m, as NASA aim to have the pad in perfect working order, in the highly unlikely and undesired event of having to launch Discovery to rescue to the crew of Atlantis.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides.
DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes). Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages) – Feb 5. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV – Feb 2. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad – Feb 1. New Super hi-res images of Ares I – Feb 1. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric – Feb 1. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation – Jan 16. Major changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. Saturn Twang Test Video for use with Ares I-1R. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS.

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 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 Presentation.

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.

** Job Opportunities** 

Related Articles