STS-120 on track for weekend rollout – STS-125 tank change

by Chris Bergin

The mating of Discovery with the STS-120 stack is proceeding on schedule inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), with rollout to Pad 39A targeted for Saturday or Sunday.

Meanwhile, a change to STS-125 – the mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for a final time – has been approved, which sees a switch to the External Tank (ET) that will fly with Atlantis next Summer.

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Discovery remains right on track for her October 23 launch date, with a couple of minor issues failing to impact the schedule, which has only the one day of contingency remaining in its pre-launch flow.

‘Vehicle is in VAB. Failed a brake test requirement Friday night due to insufficient pressure; raised pressure and passed. Pressurized struts Saturday morning and passed weight on wheels leak check on RH (Right Hand) landing gear strut that had seals replaced,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report.

‘Had wire damage in wheel well and found tile damage around landing gear; repaired tile damage and vehicle is vertical. Recovered much of time lost on these problems. Doing VAB ops, and vehicle should roll Saturday or Sunday.

‘Mr. (John) Shannon (deputy shuttle manager) said they (USA and Goodrich engineers) did a tremendous job last week and on the weekend; amazing they were able to recover time lost.’

Another issue related to the minor problem of a loose card inside the MEC (Master Events Controller).

‘Worked this weekend on EMEC S/N 3 going to OV-103 for pad change out,’ added the Stand-up. ‘Had failure on ATP; indications are was test set failure during ATP. Are working with engineering on this to come to consensus that can rerun ATP. Still pressing for September 28 delivery of that box.

‘Will discuss with OPO (Orbiter Project Office) the potential for AMEC cards to come up. Want to decide whether need to swap EMEC for unit on OV-103 (Discovery).’

Several meetings are taking place over the coming days, as pre-Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR) pick up the pace ahead of the October flight. The schedule shows the STS-120 FRR due to take place on October 9, with the joint FRR scheduled for October 16.

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Meanwhile, the decision has been made to the change the ET arrival schedule, leading to a tank swap on STS-125. This has seen Lockheed Martin change the delivery/allocation of ET-127, which now flies in place of ET-129 on the Hubble mission.

‘ET-127 will complete before ET-129 and would support STS-125 (HST mission),’ noted processing information. ‘Tank processing configuration/requirements similar/same as ET-129. Verification/Validation for LO2/IT Flange TPS closeout delayed ET-129 processing.’

‘Critical Path facility (Cell A) left open and available for tank processing. ET-127 previously spliced, aft interface installed and available for Cell A processing. Optimization for ET processing/utilization of Cell A drove decision to process ET-127 ahead of ET-129.

‘Re-sequence of ET-127 and ET-129 is necessary to meet delivery plan and integration requirements for USA/KSC. ET-127 provides a tank with mature/previously flown processes.’

The decision was taken in the midst of an internal review of the ET manifest, which will see out the remaining flights of the shuttle, along with one spare tank after STS-133.

While the tank deliveries have been caught up, since hurricane Katrina, the schedule remains challenging for the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans.

‘Near term deliveries will be challenging due to high resource demands,’ added the report. ‘Additional demands on ET labor resource base must be mitigated. Overtime required to help overcome peak resource demand periods (15 -25 percent).

‘Success oriented plan, no significant processing disruptions, nominal performance. Future ET schedule opportunity will be coordinated with USA/KSC ET near term deliveries will continue to be challenging but obtainable.’

The plan earned praise from the shuttle management, which was also updated on the status of the next three tanks due to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center.

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‘Thanks to everyone at NASA, USA for cooperation to pull this together. Executing plan,’ added the Stand-up, referencing the new ET manifest. ‘ET-126 is in mod center. Have been doing many activities, including: early testing, work on longeron, ‘spray day’ last Saturday for six sprays.

‘Continuing progress on ET-128. Completed all aft orbiter interface hardware build-up offline, and making preps to start moving that to tank. Doing much work on tank on ice/frost ramp bases, installing intertank scaffolding.

‘On ET-127, removing intertank scaffolding to move today out of final assembly into VAB, weather permitting. Want to move tank into Cell A today (Tuesday).’

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