Discovery arrives at pad – STS-122 booster stacking begins

by Chris Bergin

The Discovery/STS-120 stack has arrived at Launch Pad 39A, following a a six hour journey Sunday morning. Scheduled rollout was delayed overnight due to poor weather.

Meanwhile, in High Bay 3, STS-122’s stack is starting to take shape, with the opening segments of Atlantis’ left hand Solid Rocket Booster being built up on top of the Mobile Launch Platform.

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Mating operations inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) proceeded smoothly over the past week, protecting the one day of contingency in the flow towards launch.

Rollout weather was being monitored ahead of Discovery’s three mile crawl to the pad. Call to stations for engineers inside the VAB has been set for 4pm local time on Saturday, with the transporter crawler set to make first movement out of the giant building four hours later.

Weather proved to be the defining factor, delaying operations until the morning. The journey took around six hours to complete.

Processing of Discovery and her mated External Tank and twin Solid Rocket Boosters proceeded well over the past week, with only a couple of hours lost – since caught up – and only one engineering constraint to rollout – subsequently alleviated. Some minor elements of processing will be switched to the pad flow.

‘Working mate operations; everything going well though they are a couple of hours down,’ noted the latest Stand-up Integration report at the end of the working week. ‘LO2 side is complete, and LH2 side will be finished soon. Being a couple of hours down is not a concern; do have opportunities to make this up.

‘Do have one constraint to rollout. Discovered that grease was not getting to ET IT access bearing. Showing this as a constraint until Engineering determines what needs to be done in this area (since removed as a constraint).’

Discovery’s payload has already made the journey to the pad, and the transporter which carried the canister with the STS-120 cargo is now clear of the launch complex.

‘Payload canister lift to the PCR/payload installation in the PGHM were completed yesterday; team working to lower the canister to the transporter at this time,’ added Friday processing information.

‘Weekend Outlook: CTS (Call To Stations) for SSV Rollout to the Pad is scheduled for 1600 Saturday with first motion at 2000 hrs. Vehicle power up is scheduled for Sunday morning, and weather permitting, APU hotfire for Sunday afternoon.’

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So long as rollout occurs over the weekend, Discovery’s pad flow is protected for the opening of the launch window for STS-120 on October 23. At the same time, STS-122’s processing remains on track for a December 6 launch date, with the start of booster stacking in High Bay 3 of the VAB, albeit a day late.

‘Planned to start SRB stacking Wednesday, but weather did not cooperate. Weather looks better Thursday, so will begin stacking,’ added processing information, followed by confirmation from ATK on Friday, ‘LH aft booster mate to the MLP is complete. The LAC segment has been transferred to the VAB.’

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Meanwhile, shuttle manager Wayne Hale has noted the challenge of proceeding with due diligence with both processing flows, asking the workforce to be prepared for a busy period.

‘Have a busy fall schedule. Challenge for STS-120 is not only the usual challenge of having a safe and successful flight, but also the additional challenge of office work in order to prepare for STS-122,’ noted Hale. ‘Ask that everyone be prepared with their teams to support PRCBs (Program Requirements Control Board) and other reviews during STS-120.

‘Goal is to have a nice Christmas vacation where we can celebrate three successful flights this year.’

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