Discovery rollover delayed to end of September

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle managers have decided to change out the seals on Discovery’s leaky Right Main Landing Gear strut, which could damage STS-120’s chances of launching at the opening of the launch window – October 23.

While the vendor for the repair is expected to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, shuttle managers have already placed rollover status as “no earlier than” September 28, with a possibility of rolling over on the 26th – launching one month later.

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STS-120/Discovery status

As revealed on this site on Friday, the leak underwent a series of cycling, to see if the leak would seal up. However, the strut continued to leak hydraulic fluid, leading to the call to cancel rollover preparations, and call for the vendor to carry out a repair.

How long that repair would take was dependant on if managers called for the replacement of the seals in the strut – which has been the recommendation, via Orbiter Project Office (OPO) and SSP (Program management) meetings over the weekend.

Despite the vendor, Goodrich, recommending that more cycles should be carried out to see if the leak would seal, NASA’s PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) decided to call for the change out of the seals.

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This delays Discovery’s rollover to at least September 28, in turn delaying rollout to Pad 39A to around October 5, thus placing strains on the October 23 launch date. Thankfully, the STS-120 launch window extends to November 13.

The amount of work that is required to change out the seals relates mainly to the dismantling of the strut to replace the seals contained within. This is a time-consuming effort.

Engineers will need to deservice the strut, remove wheels/tires and brakes, disconnecting hydraulics and electrical lines, and remove the lower strut to allow for the replacing the seal. It will then require testing before being put back together for further testing.

The replacement seals are not kept on site, and will need to be shipped from Mexico. This is also only the second time such work has been required on an orbiter.

It is possible the work could be completed ahead of September 28, which would be useful, given it takes around a month of pad flow ahead of a launch.

Sources are noting a launch date of October 26 is being passed around on processing documentation, if the repair timeline holds, with a rollover around September 26.

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