Manifest acceleration: Saving Atlantis to aid Ares timeline

by Chris Bergin

The shuttle program is finalizing the approval of a manifest acceleration that will shake-up the remaining flights of the shuttle, to ease the Constellation schedule.

NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier has been holding meetings on Wednesday to approve the changes, which include flying Atlantis for an additional two flights, adding STS-131 and STS-133 logistics flights to the confirmed schedule, and ending the shuttle program earlier – at the end of March, 2010.





Huge amounts of VSE related insider news and presentations – THE most comprehensive place to follow Ares/Orion development – are available for download on L2.
See list at the end of this article.


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The possibility of Atlantis avoiding retirement in 2008 was proposed as early as last year, when documentation was provided to the PRCB (Program Control Requirements Board) showing that the Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) requirements could allow critical overhaul elements to be carried out during normal processing flows.

Activating the new OMDP plan allows for Atlantis to fly until January, 2011 – before the need for an OMDP kicks in. With the program ending in 2010, Atlantis is cleared to continue flying. Discovery and Endeavour are also clear of any OMDP requirement, up to September 2010.

A manifest plan was drawn up, showing Atlantis with two additional flights after what was to be her swansong with the flagship mission of servicing the Hubble Space Telescope for the final time (STS-125), but this was then reversed in the subsequent schedule document. At the time, it was explained that the manifest showing Atlantis flying past STS-125 was ‘only an option’.

Now, that option is being taken, with a new schedule being planned out to reflect Atlantis’ additional flights. It is also understood that Atlantis will gain the Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS) – which will allow for extended missions, reflected in notes that point towards STS-127 being handed to Atlantis.

The other mission Atlantis is likely to take is STS-131 (ULF4), carrying the CBC, Russian Docking Cargo Module, manifested to fly NET January 28, 2010, although all options are being evaluated, inclusive of utilizing the best flows for all three orbiters.

**Ride home through the fire, sparks and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. FOUR Stunning high quality 2hr, 355-400mb Camcorder and HUD videos – from payload bay closure – through re-entry with a astronaut held camcorder video – to post landing – several more videos showing landing from 90,000 ft also available**

Previously, Atlantis was to be retired after the STS-125 flight, remaining inside her OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) – to be used as a spare parts bin, donating required hardware to her two flight active sisters.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meetings, expansive documentation (available on L2) was drawn up to plan the hardware requirements for Atlantis, allowing her to undergo ‘mini OMDPs’ during the regular pre-flight processing flows of what will now be four remaining missions for the orbiter.

The plan also includes accelerating the conclusion to the shuttle program to March 31, 2010 – several months earlier than previously planned. This is related to impacts to the Constellation program, notably test flights Ares I-X and Ares I-Y, the latter in danger of being delayed to 2013, with a schedule reviews to follow over the coming months. Such impacts would ripple down through the Constellation schedule.

Plans are also being drawn up on the use of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) High Bays, including the modification of High Bay 3 for the integration requirements of the Ares I-X flight in 2008, before being returned to shuttle for the final missions. Two High Bays will be required for the shuttle program.

‘Ares I-Y launch date slipped from 9/2012 to 8/2013,’ noted impacts within the schedule, based on the pros and cons of the manifest options NASA has to consider, with ‘Orion 4 – the first manned Orion flight – slipping from 9/2014 to 8/2015,’ being threatened on one of the schedule impact notes.

This would threaten over five years of no US manned launch capability for NASA, which – due to being unacceptable – is understood to be the basis of this major manifest re-evaluation.

Part of the studies include Constellation working to investigate the use of VAB High Bay 2 to free up both high bays for shuttle in order to reduce the time between flights from 60 days to 5 weeks.

It is understood that Constellation would prefer to modify one of the existing VAB Integration Cells (HB-1 or HB-3) to support Ares I-Y. However, the alternate plan, to modify VAB HB-2, is viable. That alternative option would preserve the flexibility requirements for both Shuttle and Constellation, pending parallel facility modification studies for use of both VAB HB-1 or HB-3 and VAB HB-2.

However, funds will need to be approved to design platforms for both VAB HB-2 and VAB HB-1 or HB-3, which the final decision on the Ares I-Y VAB High Bay use being deferred until October, 2008. Rolling out of High Bay 2 incidentally adds an additional two hours of rollout time.

‘Transfer CLV (Ares I) operations to VAB HB 2: Pro’s: Avoids delay to VAB CLV modifications. Maintains Ares 1-Y and Orion 4 schedule. Avoids CaLV (Ares V) HB 2 crawlerway modifications and turn radius concerns,’ noted Constellation documentation relating to the shuttle manifest acceleration.

‘Con’s: Increases CLV roll time to pad by approximately 2 hours. Inefficiency increases life-cycle costs. Concerns with meeting 14 Day EDS loiter time constraints. Requires increased weather prediction window. Increase vehicle services could be required ( e.g. CEV purge during rollout).’

This manifest acceleration still leaves the shuttle program with six months of flexibility, should there be any further delays over the upcoming flights.

Further information is expected, along with a newly aligned manifest for both shuttle and Constellation, after the conclusion of the approval meetings on Wednesday.

Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: Presentation of Ares/Orion impacts relating to Shuttle manifest acceleration. Ares I Interstage diagrams. Ares V Super Crawler. Ares I Launch Pad images (ML etc.) Hi Res images of Ares I-X Upper Stage. Orion 606 Data Updates. Updates Constellation launch schedule through to Orion 15. Orion Seat test photos. New ML Graphic and info. New Ares V graphic and baseline data. Large collection of hi res Orion paracute drop tests. SIX Part Series of Ares I Upper Stage Graphical Overviews. DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides. DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes).

Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages). ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad. New Super hi-res images of Ares I. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric – Feb 1. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation. Major changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. Saturn Twang Test Video for use with Ares I-1R. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS.

Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares – Jan 3. Ares I-1R Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presentation.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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