Last week’s STS-120 Flight Readiness Review (FRR) concluded a key element of the countdown towards launch of shuttle Discovery, ahead of her mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Documentation from the FRR showed the extensive level of detail NASA and its contractors go into to ensure no stone has been left unturned ahead of launch. This article is part 1 of the review of the FRR documentation.
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The seven member crew, led by Commander Pam Melroy, are targeted to launch on October 23, pending the final Agency FRR on Tuesday. The five EVA mission will conduct the installation of the Node 2 (Harmony) module on the ISS.
The FRR process has changed for this mission, allowing for elements to be ‘pre-reviewed’ by sections of the shuttle community, ahead of the Mission Management Team (MMT) and Agency final approval for launch. This change saw the bulk of the FRR work being conducted over two days – October 9-10.
While most shuttle followers are aware of the purpose of the FRR, little is known about the level of work that is carried out by the shuttle community, as they prepare for a mission to launch.
Most of the process starts years in advance, as flights are manifested by the Flight Assignment Working Group (FAWG), to be used as a scheduling tool for NASA and contractors, which are expanded on via documents such as STATS, which is a regular Shuttle Flight Preparation Charts presentation – currently reaching out to STS-119.
Flights then go through a process of being baselined into the schedule, presented in the Flight Definition and Requirements Document (FDRD) – over viewing the mission and laying out the elements that will make up the shuttle stack, such as booster parts, the External Tank and payload. This process was recently seen for STS-126.
Constantly reviewed and refined by shuttle management via the twice weekly Stand-up/Integration meetings, the weekly PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) – which also has additional JPRCB splinter meetings during the week – the mission heads towards its allotted launch date, and its FRR.
Even though this FRR process has now changed, the MOD (Mission Operations Directorate) FRR traditionally produces key element overview documentation, in a ‘pre-FRR’ format, over viewing the status of the mission, ranging from shuttle, to ISS, to Russian and Canadian resources. A vast array of presentations are then released, usually around two weeks prior to the full FRRs.
However, it was last week’s shuttle FRR that contained the overview of just how much work is involved for a mission, ranging from status of launch window, down to the smallest imaginable detail of the stack’s hardware.
JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) FRR:
Although the running order can only be guessed by the document’s numbering, MOD appear to open with their overview – in STS-120’s case a 65 page presentation – full of data on consumables and an expansive overview of each day of the mission and its EVAs, launch windows, Flight Rules, Network readiness and USA contractor status on items such as Launch On Need (LON).
It also contains ‘Items of Interest’ – such as changes to the mission and why they were approved by the PRCB. Open Work, and a full graphical overview of the key elements of the docked phase of the mission, are also included.
Also noted in the MOD presentation are ‘New Operations’ such as a three page overview noting the new capabilities of new orbiter software – in STS-120’s case the ‘First Flight of OI-32 Flight Software.’
As with all of these documents, they end with a ‘certification of flight readiness’, signed off with scanned signatures and summarized with notes – for example – ‘The USA Flight Operations FRR, NASA MOD FRR, and USA SFOC Pre-FRR have been completed. Pending completion of identified open work, USA Flight Operations is ready to support Flight 13A and stage operations.’
Space Shuttle Program FRR – EVA Office FRR
Up next is the EVA Office FRR presentation – a 63 page document which also outlines details and imagery for the upcoming spacewalks. This document concentrates on EVA-4’s demonstration of the T-RAD tile repair, STS-118’s issue with a cut EMU glove – which caused the early end to EVA-3 – and the risk mitigation tasks that have been added to STS-120 as a result.
Those mitigation procedures have seen the implementation of ‘additional inspections for STS-120,’ noting that ‘in addition to the inspections specified in the requirements, for STS-120/10A the inspection plan will be as follows:
‘EVAs 1 – 4 inspections are scheduled every day night pass. For EVA 5 inspections are scheduled per the requirements, with the longest duration between inspections being ~ 70 min. In addition, inspections have been added to cover worksites and translation paths common to STS-118 and STS-120. Additional inspections have been incorporated into the EVA timeline.
‘Post EVA, down-linked gloves photos will be reviewed for acceptability for use on following EVAs. Post EVA pictures of the glove will be down-linked for ground evaluation of the RTV. If excessive RTV loss has occurred the crew will be directed to use their backup gloves.’
Those additional sets of gloves that have been manifested – along with the special ‘Over Glove’ design that is set to be implemented fully in time for STS-123 – also gain additional mentions, as previously reported on this site.
The second half of the presentation details the hardware installation that will be carried out on the mission, along with a large set of graphics on that process.
Importantly, ‘the EVA office is ‘GO’ for EVA for STS-120/10A and the 10A Stage with implementation of the additional risk mitigation as outlined. All STS-120/10A open work will be closed or dispositioned by L-2 MMT. Pending closure of open work, the EVA Office is ready to proceed with the launch of STS-120/10A.’
Flight Crew Operations Directive FRR
The Flight Crew Operations Directive FRR is a shorter overview, only 11 pages long, mainly listing NASA aircraft that will support the mission.
‘NASA Aircraft required to support the mission are ready: STAs (Shuttle Training Aircraft): NASA 944, 945 and 946. SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft): NASA 911. Pathfinder: Military Aircraft (C-9 is not an option during winter months). C-9: NASA 932 will be available for EMCC/U.S. contingency sites
‘T-38s: 18 T-38s will be available. MMAs: NASA 2 will be used for family support and MMT support – Expected to be available starting 10/16. NASA 3 and NASA 4 are available as a backup.’
The presentation does note that the crew are trained and ready – as one would expect – and lists the amount flying time Commander Melroy and Pilot George Zamka have conducted in the STA – in Melroy’s case, 1,543 hours worth.
‘STS-120 Crew is trained and ready to support launch, on-orbit operations and landing,’ confirmed the presentation.
Space Life Sciences Directorate FRR
The Space Life Sciences Directorate FRR, a 21 page presentation, covers a multitude of subjects relating to the health of the crew prior to flight, and for during the flight itself, ranging from STS and ISS Surgeon assignments, EVA exposure data and even the food they’ll be taking with them on board Discovery.
‘Crew Readiness Key (Medical) Personnel Assignments. Environmental Status. Food. EVA Status. Flight Rules and Procedures. First Flight Items. Changes Since Last Mission. Forward Work. Contingency Shuttle Crew Support (CSCS).Facilities and Laboratories,’ are all included in this FRR overview.
‘Crewmembers have been medically certified for flight. No medical training constraints to launch,’ opened the presentation, which went on to include Crew Radiation Exposure Projections.
‘Nominal STS-120/10A mission crew exposure projections meet As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA),’ noted the presentation, which showed EVA-3 as the highest level of radiation the spacewalkers will endure during the mission (still well within safe limits).
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Again, the extensive level of detail is in evidence, with notes mentioning tests on water samples that the crew will drink, along with Food Microbial evaluations. It was tests on the water that found an item of interest from the previous mission, STS-118.
‘Environmental Status – Water: Water, Air and Microbiology Quality Assessments. During STS-118/13A.1, two of the four Contingency Water Containers (CWCs) samples return showed microbial counts that were much higher than accepted ISS limits. The count was attributed to a waterborne micro organism (Wautersia paucula).
‘This organism is generally not a significant health concern, except in immuno-compromised individuals. The level of silver biocide was normal. (Depts.) in conjunction with ECLS to develop a forward plan that will support pursuing in-flight micro testing of the two bags that had high microbial counts. A follow-up study is on-going to determine the biocidal efficacy of silver in regards to the micro organisms recovered.’
Flight Operations and Integration Office FRR
One of the most impressive presentations is the 47 page Flight Operations and Integration Office FRR presentation, which is packed with useful mission data, notes, overviews and images.
The presentation gives an extensive mission overview for Discovery, and the supporting LON flight of Atlantis, timelining when she would need to launch in the eventuality of serious damage being found on her sister.
In reference to LON, the presentation shows how NASA calculate the CSCS (Crew Shuttle Contingency Support) timeline – the amount of time the crew of Discovery can take up residence onboard the ISS, until Atlantis has to ‘rescue’ them.
‘STS-120/10A CSCS Summary report: Duration for all consumables is greater than or equal to LON turnaround capability of 40 days. Food is most limiting consumable resulting in 56 days capability (86 with maximum rationing). O2 generation is 73 days, waste containment is 83 days, water is 101 days, and CO2 removal is unlimited.’
Showing the status of Atlantis’ processing for the LON requirement and the deadline Atlantis has to launch on a rescue, the presentation adds: ‘STS-320 Orbiter and ET processing supports 12/2/07 launch. Margin of time between CSCS capability and planned LON launch is 33 Days (O2 Limited). STS-320 must launch no later than January 5 for STS-120 crew rescue.’
The rest of the presentation goes into great detail in reference to the 10A Flight and the Increment 16 ‘firsts’ – which include and are expanded on: ‘First Increment with rotation of 3 separate ISS crewmembers on Shuttle during Increment. 10A first ISS flight with 5 planned EVAs.
‘First time two Expedition Crewmembers perform EVA during flight. Two female CDRs onboard during 10A. First relocation of an Integrated Equipment Assembly (IEA) when the P6 Truss is moved and attached to the P5 Truss
‘First deployment of radiator outer panels (S1 Thermal Radiator System). First time robotic move of a pressurized Module during Stage (Node 2/PMA2 relocation). Last planned US stage EVA occurring in Stage 10A. 1E launch of first ESA element Columbus. First ATV launch/dock.1J/A launch of first JAXA element JLP (JEM Logistics Module Pressurized Section).’
Click here for the second part our FRR overview articles.
L2 members: All documentation and quotes – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.
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