STS-122: Atlantis mission timeline protected in new plan

by Chris Bergin

While ET-120 mating operations are continuing for STS-120 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), shuttle managers have drawn up a plan to start processing of the next mission – STS-122 – in tandem, via a High Bay (HB) utilization plan.

With the STS-120 stack occupying High Bay 1 until the end of the month, engineers will use High Bay 3 – despite it currently undergoing door repairs – to build up the STS-122 stack.

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STS-120 build up of documentation in action on L2 – including major baseline presentations on orbiter and ET-120. Presentations and memos on the ET-120 repair status also available.

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Only a matter of days separate the rollout of STS-120 to Pad 39A, before the requirement of starting the STS-122 build-up, but the shuttle program want to protect the STS-122 launch window – which opens early December – due to it being only a week long.

‘To support December 6 launch date, working VAB HB 1 and HB 3 in parallel,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report. ‘Focusing on finishing HB 3, tracking 22 day schedule.

‘Critical path includes completion of door validations and securing the VLE, so all tools/equipment are out of the way. If all goes well, will be ready to roll MLP (Mobile Launch Platform) in September 23.’

Planning for this eventuality has been on-going for about a month, with plans to build up parts of the boosters in a separate High Bay, before rolling over to High Bay 1 for the continuation of the processing.

One vital element of STS-122 is the External Tank, ET-125, which was due to ship out of the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) on Thursday, but this was delayed by a small amount of extra work which was spotted during final shakedown in New Orleans.

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‘Hoped to have ET-125 on its way Thursday, but after reviewing open work, keeping it at MAF to complete some activity,’ added ET processing information.

‘Had multiple R&R (remove and replace) efforts that had to be performed at +Y longeron area on aft end of vehicle, which held up many closeout and trim operations of hardware surrounding this location. Working through final sanding and trimming operations and work at LO2 feedline bracket area.

‘Determined with KSC it’s best to complete this activity at MAF. Plan to complete this Friday, allowing for loading of tank on barge. Lockheed Martin will give updates of where they stand this afternoon with parties involved. Not working any issues other than last required, sanding and machining operations.’

Atlantis’ STS-122 is will mark the 24th shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – delivering the European built Columbus module to the station, and carrying out a crew rotation, returning Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Daniel Tani to earth, after his short stay since arriving on October’s STS-120. Replacing Tani will be ESA’s Leopold Eyharts.

STS-120’s launch processing is proceeding on track, with some minor issues being worked. Discovery still on track to rollover to the VAB on September 19. Once there, she will be greeted by ET-120 and the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) – which were mated on Thursday. STS-120 tracking an October 23 launch date.

‘Are completing problems/issues that they’ve been working. APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) contamination work will be deferred. Concluded that potential for water re-servicing is acceptable according to samples taken,’ noted processing information. ‘Any re-servicing would be deferred to next flow.

‘Ingress/egress hatch limit switch rigging – final checks will be completed in next few days. Opening payload bay doors for this and would close doors by September 12, putting them in position to rollover on September 19.’

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