FRR approves December 6 launch date for STS-122

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Atlantis has been cleared by the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for her December 6 launch target, at 4:31 p.m. EST. STS-122 will be the fourth mission of 2007 by an agency described by shuttle manager Wayne Hale as a “Can Do!” NASA.

STS-122 is carrying the European Columbus module to the International Space Station (ISS), on a mission that will be extended by two days for an additional EVA – should consumables status allow.

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Small amounts of troubleshooting have been carried out on the stack at pad 39A, in what has been an extremely smooth pre-launch flow for Atlantis, leaving managers with only standard notes of interest for discussion at the FRR.

‘WLE (Wing Leading Edge) sensors would not communicate with the PGSC (Payload and General Support Computer). The technical community believes the most likely cause may be dead batteries in the sensor side relays,’ noted processing information on the only remaining open item.

‘Are troubleshooting problems with WLESS at pad. Laptop is having trouble communicating with system. Team is looking at the legs of the fault tree to determine if problem is with laptop or sensor. There is one path, with the new firmware, where we may have drained the batteries. Cannot get to the batteries at pad.

‘Troubleshooting today (Friday) will try to establish direct communication with the sensors by getting better proximity to the sensors thus bypassing the relays.’

Another issue, when the left OMS pod did not get a crossover oxidizer valve to function during a test Monday, was cleared, following retesting via 10 cycles, from which point it worked perfectly. OPO (Orbiter Project Office) decided to fly as is and changeout during Atlantis’ next flow.

‘Discussed the 1-2 crossfeed valve at OPO Tech Tagup. It has been fixed now in terms of the relay. Only one relay was a problem, and even if it were to fail, everyone was happy that it could fly as is,’ added Stand-up/Integration report information. ‘Community reached concurrence that there is no issue, even if the problem reoccurs.’

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Meanwhile, processing at the pad is on schedule, with the S0007 Launch Countdown Call to Stations scheduled for 1830 local time on Monday.

‘EMUs were installed early in the week, and the checkout completed. Completed ordnance installation and are into closeout. Orbiter Aft Closeouts continue and scheduled to be completed on Sunday,’ noted processing information.

‘Payload Ground Support Computer (PGSC) testing was performed yesterday. After some troubleshooting, the intermittent communication problem appeared to cease. Engineering evaluation to continue today.LOX/LH2 Dewpoints and Conditioning was competed yesterday with no issues. Airlock was closed out for flight.

‘Hyper/MPS Pressurization and Closeouts are in work. 1st Stage Press will occur over night today into Saturday morning and 2nd Stage Press will occur 3rd shift Sunday. Payload bay doors were opened yesterday morning for final closeouts and are scheduled to be closed for flight on Monday.’

Post STS-120 work also spotted a potential problem with antenna cables, which are used as part of the EMU radio system. This has led to extra cables being manifested for the ride uphill with Atlantis.

‘Have been doing a lot of on-orbit preps for the coming mission, EVA-11 configurations, resizes, and battery maintenance. Had a late manifest change to STS-122, to add three antenna cables for the EMU radio. Worked with EV to do additional inspections of three antenna cables,’ noted acquired information.

‘During the post-flight processing of STS-120 suits, one of the cables came apart. All the suits on orbit and onboard STS-122 have checked out their pre-flight checks. Will have another comm check on-orbit before EVA. Will get some checks on FD2 during EMU checkout. Believe all systems are ‘Go’. In long-term, will be working a redesign of that cable.’

Achieving the go ahead to proceed towards a December 6 launch date involved several key elements during the flow, starting with the mitigation plan on High Bay use during Solid Rocket Booster stacking in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

Regardless, work on the ISS was also a constraint for what is a short launch window (December 6-13), following the P6 4B solar array repair, that was carried out during STS-120, moving one of the mission’s spacewalks into the stage between Discovery’s departure and Atlantis’ scheduled arrival.

Expedition 16 ably caught up on the work required to finalize work on Node 2 ‘Harmony’ – carried by Discovery – ahead of Atlantis’ arrival with Columbus. Only one issue was reported during the stage, with a failed leak check on the vestibule between the module and the PMA.

While the cause for the failed leak check is unknown, a second test showed the problem to possibly been related to a sensor, rather than an actual leak.

‘ISS did a leak check the night before last on the vestibule, and it didn’t pass. Saw three times what they expected (about four pounds of air per day). This was just one sensor,’ noted Stand-up information.

‘Did the same test last night, and this morning they did not see the same pressure expected if it had been leaking. Still is very early. First leak check did not pass, second one did. Unknown why the same leak did not appear.’

Meanwhile, shuttle manager Wayne Hale once again heaped deserved praise on his workforce, as the program closes in on the fourth launch in a year, for the first time since 2002.

‘This is a very exciting time to be involved in this Program. Thanks to everybody for their hard work this year,’ noted the latest Stand-up/Integration report.

‘Back in February 2007, when we had the hailstorm, people weren’t confident we would be able to get flights off this year. Now we are wrapping up four flights this year. This is a credit to all the hard work.

‘Mr. Hale asked management to tell all their folks how much he appreciates their work this year. Bouncing back from all that has really burnished the reputation of NASA as a ‘Can Do!’ organization.

‘Next week will be really exciting for us with the launch on Thursday. Many people are traveling down Monday. Are looking forward not only to STS-122, but a great upcoming year.’

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