Preparing for the shuttle surge – all three orbiter flows on track

by Chris Bergin

Three orbiters and three good processing flows, NASA is on track to carry out another three missions in the space of less than four months.

Those three assembly missions place the emphasis back on the international make-up of the space station, as Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour carry major components into orbit for the US, Europe and Japan during STS-120, STS-122, and STS-123.

**The most comprehensive collection of Shuttle, Ares, Orion and ISS related presentations and mission documentation, plus expansive daily processing documentation and updates are available to download on L2 **

Extensive STS-120 build up of documentation in action on L2 – **STS-120 Special Section on L2 to begin this weekend**, including Flight Plans, Handbooks, Manuals, documentation and presentations. STS-122 and STS-123 documentation already available.

**LIVE news updates on Discovery STS-120 Processing**

**LIVE news updates on Endeavour STS-118 Post Flight and STS-123 Processing**

**LIVE news updates on Atlantis STS-122 Processing**


STS-120/Discovery status

Discovery’s flow remains on track for rollover from OPF-3 (Orbiter Processing Facility) on September 19, ready to be lifted over to High Bay 1 for mating with her External Tank (ET-120) and twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs).

That date is still to be confirmed ahead of the rollout review on Friday, but is likely to be passed, allowing the STS-120 stack to rollout on September 27, for a pad flow tracking an October 23 launch date.

‘Vehicle in OPF; have plenty of schedule time for remaining work. Wrapping up ingress/egress limit switch rigging, with functional completed. Plan to open payload bay doors, install PSA, close doors by Wednesday, do weight and C.G. (Center of Gravity) by Thursday, OTS (Orbiter Transporter System) on Friday, and be able to roll September 19,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report on L2.

‘Should wrap up stress analysis done on bonding of OV-103 OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) pod blankets this week before roll. This is not a constraint to launch, because could cut blankets at pad. Everything looks positive except for one tile (have a bit more work to do on that tile).

‘ET processing in VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) going well and on schedule; able to support rollover and mate ops next week. STS-120 has very green schedule overall.’

The mission, commanded by Pam Melroy, continues to be fine tuned, with an addition of a fifth EVA, additional middeck payloads being added to the baseline, including what is known as the Starboard Tool Stowage Assembly (TSA), for a test of the T-Rad on orbit repair capability, along with the addition of spare sets of EMU gloves – related to the recent incidents of cut gloves during spacewalks. (All presentations, with images, diagrams and new timelines available on L2).

Preparations for the mission – from a paperwork standpoint – are also picking up the pace, with the Mission Operations Directive (MOD) Flight Readiness Review (FRR) set for next Monday.

STS-122/Atlantis status

Meanwhile, Atlantis’ STS-122 mission – delivering the European built Columbus module to the station, and carrying out an ISS crew rotation – has a key hardware element en route to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the shipping of External Tank ET-125.

The tank – which was delayed slightly by last minute work during final inspections – finally left the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) on Monday, and will arrive at KSC at the end of the week.

‘ET-125 on the way,’ noted processing information. ‘Should arrive at KSC at 07:00 Friday; should be at turn basin that afternoon. Will accept ET-125 at end of this week, and work through weekend to get into test cell.’

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Atlantis herself is starting to take shape for the December 6 or 7 launch date target, with the main focus of attention currently related to the installation of her left OMS Pod – set for Friday, and checks on Atlantis’ COPVs (Composite Overwrap Pressure Vessels).

The COPVs – especially on Atlantis – have been a focus of attention since STS-117, when it was found that some of the tanks were starting to show signs of aging. Engineers decided to replace a couple of the COPVs during Atlantis’ processing flow as a pre-caution, although they will undergo further testing to see if one can be used as a spare.

‘Reliabilities flight by flight for each vehicle through end of Program came out with three nines, with fly as is recommendation,’ confirmed notes from last week’s Orbiter Project Office meeting. ‘Will do health checks on tanks removed from OV-104 (Atlantis) to characterize fleet tanks and help decide which of the two tanks to use if ever need a spare.

‘Will try to use spectrographic technique to determine strain in overwrap fibers on three tanks having higher risk – and confirm whether volume growth is not as high as originally reported on those tanks.’

To protect STS-122’s short launch window, NASA drew up a plan to start stacking the SRBs in High Bay 3, before Discovery (STS-120) rolls out of High Bay 1. Currently, STS-122’s milestones point towards SRB stacking to begin around September 23rd. ET-125 is due to be mated around October 17, Atlantis will rollover from OPF-1 for mating November 7, for rollout to Pad 39A a week later.

‘In VAB High Bay 3, tracking six or seven areas, each on or ahead of schedule,’ added processing information. ‘Looks good for having Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) ready for the stacking of the boosters on September 22 or 23; fairly aggressive schedule for next 12 days.’

STS-123/Endeavour status

Endeavour, not long since she arrived back in OPF-2 after STS-118, is being prepared for STS-123 – currently targeted for February 14, 2008. STS-123 will deliver the first module of the Japanese laboratory, Kibo, on behalf of JAXA, along with the Canadian Dextre robotics system to the ISS.

‘OPF flow going well; about 85 percent complete on TPS (Thermal Protection System) inspection. Working this week to remove engines and do OMS pod functionals. Over last five days, completed WLE (Wing Leading Edge) thermography, completing all thermography on vehicle. Will do work to replace chin panel.’

SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) removal has begun after it was delayed from the originally scheduled timeline due to problems with the Hyster – a fork lift type machine that is used to remove and install the engines.

‘While running pre-operational checks on Hyster Thursday morning, getting ready to remove it from OV-105 (Endeavour), ran into interference problem with mast and a cattle guard (human safety item made of two inch aluminum tubing), causing some damage. Fixed damage, and are trying to completely understand this to make sure it is safe.’

Endeavour’s schedule milestones currently point to SRB stacking to begin on November 15, ET-126 mate December 11, Endeavour to rollover for mating around January 7, for rollout to Pad 39A on January 14 – a month prior to launch.

L2 members: All documentation – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.

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