Smooth flow – Atlantis remains on schedule for June 8 launch

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle managers are optimistic that Atlantis’ pad flow is moving forward on schedule towards a June 8 launch date for STS-117, the first of possibly four missions in 2007.

STS-117 is heading towards its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at the end of this month without any major issues being worked, as pad processing continues, alongside simulations for the huge team that will guide Atlantis and her crew through the upcoming mission.

**The most comprehensive collection of STS-117 onwards related presentions and mission documentation, plus expansive daily processing documentation and updates are available to download on L2 **

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‘Looks like pad flow can support June 8 launch,’ noted Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Processing manager on the latest shuttle standup/integration report, which rounded up the expansive amount of work that is carried out with Atlantis on the pad prior to launch.

Issues being addressed are classed as minor, with only a ‘concern’ with Atlantis’ Window Contamination Control System (WCCS) holding a possibility of requiring replacement at the pad.

‘Working desiccant concern for outer window WCCS on OV-104 (Atlantis) and possibly on other vehicles. Noticed we were not obtaining color change through water absorption. Team is evaluating this. May need to R&R (Remove and Replace) at the pad,’ added processing information.

**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**

‘Have concern for static charge accumulation on a blanket for hydraulic actuators. KSC lab will determine if can hold a charge between the blanket and actuator.’

Meanwhile, the huge support team that check photographic and video evidence for any damage on the orbiter’s TPS (Thermal Protection System) were involved in a ‘long sim’ this week, homing their skills in the event of a debris strike whilst Atlantis is on orbit.

The team was presented with imagery gained from a simulated mission, following the orbiter’s Rendezvous Pitch Manoeuvre (RPM) prior to docking with the International Space Station. The simulation threw the team a serious scenario on spotting a ‘more serious than usual’ debris strike to the orbiter.

‘Had Sim on debris. Had 29 impact locations captured as part of the RPM. Many failed screening criteria. Had done pre-work on 2,800 cases developing look-up tables to clear hits, but most damaged sites were outside these areas,’ summarized the simulation report.

‘Needed to decide on FD3 (Flight Day 3) whether have TPS concerns. One location appeared to have damage all way through tile. Declared TPS suspect. MOD (Mission Operations Directorate) set up for expectations of a post-inspection.’

Such simulations aren’t rare events, as the teams are constantly put through their paces, so that if the situation calls for it, the teams are fully prepared to hit the ground running.

In other news, the remaining four RSRM (Reusable Solid Rocket Motor) segments that were involved in the ATK train accident are expected to transferred on to replacement rail cars at the weekend, before heading back to Utah. The other four segments are heading to KSC.

‘Will transfer the four segments involved in the derailment in Alabama to new undamaged rail cars for shipment back to Utah, beginning Saturday,’ noted ATK information.

UPDATE: Saturday, 8:30am update: On the KSC shuttle status report (phone line) an oxidizer leak was reported. The report also stated that propellant loading preparations were put on hold. No further information at this time.

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