STS-122 rollover advanced as NASA evaluates ISS power options

by Chris Bergin

While Discovery continues the STS-120 mission on orbit, the next flight is building up a head of steam in preparations for STS-122, with Atlantis now rolling over on November 4.

Atlantis is set to launch to the ISS on December 6, to a station that is undergoing power evaluations, after STS-120’s EVA-2 found a problem with the starboard SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint) – required to rotate one of the station’s set of solar arrays to track the sun.

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Eventually, the ISS will have four sets of solar arrays, used to generate the electricity the station needs for its growing complement of modules. While NASA are working a plan, which may include further inspections, or even the removal and replacement of certain parts on the joint, the station has enough power to cope with the arrival of the next module – Columbus.

That European Space Agency’s Columbus – which was built by EADS Space Transportations – has a 10 year lifespan, and is equipped with flexible research facilities that offer extensive science capabilities, including thousands of experiments in life sciences, materials science, fluid physics and a whole host of other disciplines, all in the weightlessness of orbit.

It is currently set to ride with Atlantis to the ISS NET (No Earlier Than) December 6, a launch date that has gained further protection via the smooth processing flow the orbiter has enjoyed inside OPF-1, allowing for the acceleration of her rollover date by a couple of days.

‘Performing weight and CGs (weight on wheels) over the weekend. Targeting to have transporter vehicle to OPF on Monday. In VAB (Vehicle Assembly Facility), ET/SRB (External Tank/Solid Rocket Booster) stack closeouts going well. Planning to accelerate schedule a couple of days,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-Up/Integration report.

‘Moving orbiter rollover from November 6 to 4, which puts rollout to pad on November 11. Allows more contingency time for STS-122 flow.’

The ability to advance STS-122 processing timeline is mainly thanks to the dual High Bay processing plan that was put into action prior to the launch of STS-120.

SARJ Problem: 

Problems with power requirements are likely to become a real issue for the ISS once shuttle is ready to haul up the JAXA modules in the first half of 2008, via STS-123 and STS-124. That is when NASA will need to have a solution in place, in order to be able to power the likes of the giant JEM Kibo Pressurized Module.

The issue with the SARJ has been know for some time, noted back on September 2, when the starboard SARJ showed an increased current value to the drive motor (as high as 0.9A) – whereas the portside SARJ has continued to operate nominally with a drive current around 0.3A.

STS-120’s EVA-2 was the first opportunity to take a closer look, via an addition to the spacewalk timeline. Astronaut Dan Tani was tasked with the inspection, which worryingly found metal filings in areas around the joint.

‘Stbd SARJ Inspection Update: During EVA-2, EV3 Tani removed thermal cover #12 on the starboard SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint), after an external 360-deg MLI (Multilayer Insulation) inspection did not find anything unusual,’ noted Sunday’s ISS On Orbit Status report.

‘Underneath the cover Dan reported seeing magnetized metal filings or shavings sticking to the race-ring, brackets and other areas. In Tani’s words, the race-ring looks ‘corroded’. From the wireless video it looks like the race-ring has been damaged by sliding metal on metal contact over the bearing surface.

‘Tani was able take a sample of the shavings after getting some sticky ‘flycatcher’ tape from the A/L (Air Lock). Still pictures were not taken of the damage due to problems with two DCS cameras. Helmet cam video was obtained however.

‘For now, where possible the Stbd SARJ will be parked instead of Autotracking to reduce wear on the inboard race-ring. The SARJ will be positioned to protect the solar arrays during dynamic events (e.g., thruster firings).’


Tani’s observations came during a successful EVA-2, which was assisted by Scott Parazynski. Several tasks had to be deferred until later in the mission, although they aren’t expected to take more than an hour.

‘Tasks deferred for a subsequent spacewalk are: Completion of Node-2 PDGF installation by connecting power/data cables (however, PDGF is ready to support Node 2 relocation), Installation of one Node-2 handrail, and RPCM S04B-C R&R (Remote Power Controller Module Removal & Replacement).

‘Official start time of the spacewalk was 5:32am EDT (~26 min ahead of schedule). It ended at 12:05pm. Total EVA duration (PET = Phase Elapsed Time) was 6h 33m.

‘It was the 94th spacewalk for ISS assembly and maintenance and the 66th from the station (28 from Shuttle, 44 from Quest, 22 from Pirs) totaling 393h 25m. After today’s EVA, a total of 109 spacewalkers (79 NASA astronauts, 20 Russians, and ten astronauts representing Japan-1, Canada-4, France-1, Germany-1 and Sweden-3) have logged a total of 580h 49m outside the station on building, outfitting and servicing. It also was the 116th spacewalk by US astronauts.’

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A decision taken by the Shuttle Program to include spare sets of EMU gloves has proven to be a useful contingency, after Wheelock’s right-hand glove was shown to have excessive wear after EVA-1.

‘While the spacewalk went on, the crew prepared DCS-760 digital still cameras for taking photographs of the spacewalker’s EMU gloves after ingress, to be downlinked for damage inspection,’ added the status report.

‘After EVA-1, inspection of downlinked glove photographs from Doug Wheelock’s right-hand glove showed excessive wear of the RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) material. For EVA-3, Wheelock will replace one or both of his gloves with backups.’

Earlier in Flight Day 6, the P6 truss segment was successfully detached from the Z1 truss element. It is now parked for an overnight stay on the end of the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Maneuvering System).

‘The detaching, by Steph Wilson and Doug Wheelock at Canadarm2’s controls, took place at ~6:55am EDT. P6 will be installed at the far end of the P5 truss by the SSRMS on Tuesday (10/30), after having been temporarily handed off to the SRMS (Shuttle RMS) tomorrow to allow the SSRMS to change its base, moving on the MT (Mobile Transporter) an outboard work site (WS-8).’

Flight Day 7:

Fight Day 7 will be more relaxed for the crew, with around 3.5 hours of off-duty time in the schedule for the STS-120 crew. However, several key events will take place.

Quick-Look of Flight Day 7 Events: S1 ETCS (External Thermal Control System) Radiator #1 and #3 deploy. SSRMS hands off P6 truss to SRMS. SSRMS moves on MT/MBS from WS-4 to WS-8. P6 handed off from SRMS back to SSRMS (install on P5 on Flight Day 8). Node-2 Avionics Rack preparations. Parazynski/Wheelock Campout begins for EVA-3.

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