STS-117 – Countdown begins for Atlantis

by Chris Bergin

Launch processing is continuing smoothly for Shuttle Atlantis at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, as the countdown clock started ticking down to Atlantis’ lift-off on Friday night.

Engineers and technicians received their call to stations 30 minutes prior to the start of the final phase of preparations – known as S0007 – which initiated the start of the three day countdown, as a complex ballet of pre-scheduled operations begin in earnest.

**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 ** Including all FRR documentation and presentations. All processing content and quotes from the article below orginate from L2’s STS-117 Special Section.

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Atlantis’ payload bays have been closed for the final time today, following a temporary requirement to open them for the purpose of accomplishing battery charging inside the cargo hold. Hyper/MPS (Main Propulsion System) press/closeouts were completed earlier this morning.

STS-117 was set to launch earlier in the year, until an unexpected hailstorm on February 26 damaged Atlantis’ External Tank (ET-124). However, the three month wait is nearly over, as Atlantis builds ever closer to the mission that will bring a new set of solar arrays to the International Space Station.

‘We’re relieved that we are almost there,’ said NASA Test Director Steve Payne at a press briefing on Tuesday. ‘We are tracking no issues at the moment.’

‘It’s been a long waiting period, and as you probably know, whenever you’re ready to go and you have to stop and wait for a few months, it’s a disappointment. But once you spool back up and everything’s ready, and it looks like everything’s falling into place nicely, the team’s really excited and we’re ready to get off the ground.’

**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**

NASA announced today that there is currently a 70 percent chance of favorable weather at the launch complex. Thunderstorms are expected to move into the area earlier in the day, but officials believe they will clear out as launch time nears.

‘The weather looks reasonably promising for launch,’ shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said. ‘We do expect to see some afternoon thunderstorms in the area on launch day, but by launch time all that weather should move inland with the sea breeze.’

The three day launch countdown is set to begin at 9:00pm local time on Tuesday night, with a precise set of events set to take place in anticipation of lift-off on Friday night at 7:38pm. With several built-in holds, the countdown clock started counting down from T-1 day, 19 hours.

Several milestones are upcoming for Atlantis. At around 10:30pm on Thursday the Rotating Servicing Structure (RSS) – that encapsulates the launch stack while workers service the shuttle prior to launch – is scheduled to be retracted. Tanking of the ET will take place no earlier than 9:12am Friday morning.

The ten-minute launch window opens up at 7:33pm. Should the launch be scrubbed on Friday, opportunities to lift-off remain open until July 17. A few constraints exist during STS-117’s window, due to an Atlas V that is scheduled to launch on June 14 and a Delta II that is scheduled for a July 1 launch.

Final approval for the launch countdown to proceed as planned, including the go-ahead for the retraction of the RSS, will be giving at the L-2 Day Mission Management Team (MMT) meeting, with only has a few issues remaining to be closed out.

On the whole, Atlantis’ processing towards launch is proceeding well, with no show stoppers.

‘All our systems right now are in great shape – we’re tracking no constraints that are show stoppers,’ said Payne. ‘Teams are ready and everybody’s eager to launch – we’re looking forward to a successful assembly mission.’

Payne also re-emphasized that a planned strike by 570 United Space Alliance workers will not affect launch or mission operations.

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