Atlantis due back at KSC noon Sunday

by Chris Bergin

Issues with the retraction of Atlantis’ landing gear (hydraulics), which stalled operations to mate Atlantis on top of the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) Thursday night, have been resolved by engineers at the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC).

Mating is now set to take place around midnight Friday in California, ahead of the duo’s 7am Saturday morning flight to KSC – including at least one stop en route – for arrival back in Florida, noon Sunday.

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As of Thursday, NASA were hoping to start Atlantis’ ferry trip early on Friday. However, the problems with hydraulic operations, delayed the mating of Atlantis on top of the SCA.

‘The morning meeting will convene at 0800 PDT to evaluate the status of the Orbiter, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, and the weather. Hydraulic operations to position the body flap and raise the landing gear are on hold for an o-ring,’ noted processing information on Friday on L2.

‘This is, in-turn, holding up mating of the Orbiter to the SCA.

‘The final hydraulic operation to position the bodyflap and raise the landing gear was not completed last night. During a hose swap, an o-ring was damaged and some hydraulic fluid was spilled.

All the fluid was contained except about 3 ounces and that has been cleaned up. No replacement o-rings are currently available. Replacement parts will be sent to Dryden from KSC today pending cleaning.’

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Another issue that held up mating related to a damaged left hand (LH) ‘salad bowl’ – which is a hemispherical ball connector on each side of the aft ET struts which fits into hollow hemispheres on the orbiter in the ET umbilical wells.

‘The LH salad bowl installation is complete less ground checks. The damaged salad bowl removed from OV-104 has arrived at Huntington Beach for failure analysis to support STS-118 flight rationale. Tailcone bolts are installed and torqued. Fairing installations are in work,’ added the processing information.

‘Final orbiter power down and reconfigure for SCA power will be completed following resolution of the hydraulics issue.’

However, these issues have now been resolved.

‘Orbiter mate to SCA is is estimated for 02:00 EDT Saturday,’ added updated processing information. ‘OV-104 (Atlantis) SCA depart from DRFR estimated 10:00 EST/ 07:00 Pacfic Saturday OV 104 arrival at KSC estimated for noon Sunday July 1st.’

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