Atlantis back home as Endeavour begins mating operations

by Chris Bergin

Atlantis has arrived back at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on top of the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) Tuesday morning, following a cross-country piggyback ride back from California. However, engineers are struggling to remove her from the SCA.

In tandem, mating operations with Endeavour and ET-117 – along with the twin Solid Rocket Boosters – will begin soon, after the orbiter was lifted over to the stack, after literally hanging out inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) overnight.

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Atlantis – via a number of pit stops and two overnight stays – is now back home at KSC, and is about to be towed back to her OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) – once demated from the SCA at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

Thousands of people watched Atlantis return from various vantage points, including nearby Cocoa Beach.

‘We’ve had a great ferry mission across the country, which took us a few days, but it really went very well’ said KSC manager and Flight Controller Leroy Cain, speaking next to Atlantis and the SCA on the SLF runway.

‘Atlantis is in great shape as you can see – and we’re really glad to have her back here and have her processed for the next mission in December.

‘We really appreciate the effort of all the folks on the ground team here to receive us and it’s great to be home.’

**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**

Due to the extended trip – mainly due to weather – safing of the vehicle will involve a number of engineers having to work through the July 4 holiday.

‘Ready for vehicle at KSC today. Arrival either day will probably require work on July 4 on safing, which requires about 50 individuals in OPF,’ added the latest integration report. ‘(Shuttle manager) Mr. (Wayne) Hale is sorry they would need to work on the holiday.’

The latest news is Atlantis remains on top of the SCA and hasn’t yet been removed. High powered lights have been placed around the MDM (Mate De-Mate) facility next to the SLF, as engineers continue to work to free her, ahead of the trip back to her OPF.

Meanwhile, Endeavour has been lifted over to the awaiting ET-117 and booster stack, ahead of mating operations. Currently, rollout to launch pad 39A is scheduled for July 10, ahead of the August 7 launch date.
‘OV-105 Rollover to the VAB, Orbiter Sling Connection & OV-105 Lift & Rotate to Vertical was completed yesterday. OV-105 Lift into H/B-1 & Mate will be in work today (ahead of) S0008 – Orbiter/ET interface testing is scheduled for Friday at 1700 hours’ noted processing information today. 
‘SSV Rollout to the PAD is scheduled for Tuesday (07/10) @ 0001 hrs.’
Despite the operations taking a day longer than normal, managers are pleased with the smoothness of the operation, despite a some of the workforce – who normally work such operations – being out on strike.
‘Operations completed today with first motion of the vehicle at 7:20 am. Orbiter/ET mate operations are in work in the VAB. The orbiter has been rotated to vertical and disconnect of the aft spreader beam and 175 ton crane are in work,’ noted another processing update.
‘Plan to release the prime crane crew after the 175 ton crane is disconnected and pick up with lift to HB1 and mate in the morning. Not working any issues at this time.’

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