STS-122 may still be extended as part of SARJ effort

by Chris Bergin

NASA managers are considering extending STS-122’s docked stage by an addition of two days, allowing for further evaluations of the starboard SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint) on the International Space Station.

Today’s EVA-12 on the ISS took a closer look at the SARJ, after initial results show the samples brought back on STS-120 consist of 1505 Nitride material, which is being ground away from the race ring – the worst case scenario feared by NASA.

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How much inspection work is completed via EVA-12 will go some way to aid the evaluations on if STS-122 can also aid the data gathering, as managers try to understand the problem with the joint.

Managers of the ISS and Shuttle have been going back and forth to find room in their respective plans to continue the investigation.

‘Mike Suffredini (ISS manager) reported ISS doesn’t understand SARJ problem yet. Asking teams what can be done between now and whenever panel repair is done. Inspections will be minor compared to repair work,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report.

Interestingly, and as observed on a number of previous Stand-ups, both Shuttle and ISS have been requesting work to be placed into their respective schedules. Now it appears both will share the workload, with the SARJ inspections during EVA-12 now added, despite an apparent inability to fit this work into the spacewalk earlier in the week.

‘Looked at taking off panel 7 during stage to get digital photography of it. Also will put ISS arm up and study rotation. Couldn’t fit this into stage work, and don’t want to interfere with STS-122 launch. Asked team to look at adding this to one of three EVAs as get-ahead or if another task could be removed,’ added Suffredini on the Stand-up.

‘ISS is requesting changing EVA-3 content to increase priority of SARJ inspection.’

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The Mission Management Team discussed flexibility on further inspections, in addition to EVA-12, during STS-122. It appears the plan is to initially add an inspection during STS-122’s EVA-3 as a get-ahead task, with the option of adding two days to the mission, thus allowing a fourth EVA to be dedicated to further inspections.

‘Also looking at what could do if get two extra days on STS-122 (maybe do what was planned for EVA-4 during last flight,’ added the Stand-up. ‘Found the bearing race material is 100 percent 1505 Nitride, the hardest material in system. Must decide fairly quickly if can switch to backup side.’

The sample results are a concern, with two, three or maybe even more EVAs required to replace the suspect hardware in the joint, once the cause is understood. The joint will be required to be operational for next year’s addition of the Japanese modules.

How much inspection is required during STS-122 will, however, depend on how useful EVA-12’s effort proceeds. More meetings are during – in relation to STS-122 – following Saturday’s spacewalk. It is possible that all required sample gathering will be completed via EVA-12.

Today’s spacewalk started ahead of schedule, as per usually with ISS commander Peggy Whitson at the helm. She is joined with Dan Tani for what is scheduled as a six and a half hour EVA.

Tasks for the EVA include: Remove the S0 truss NH3 (ammonia) shunt jumper on Port; Configure vent tools; Remove Node-2 fluid QD (quick disconnect) caps; Vent and stow the Port NH3 shunt jumper; Relocate an APFR (Articulating Portable Foot Restraint) from Lab WIF-11 (Worksite Interface Fixture 11) to Lab WIF-12; Relocate Node-2 Loop B fluid tray to the Lab and attach it.

Deploy Node-2 Loop B fluid tray hinged section; Mate S0 fluid QDs, then open S0 valves and 2 fluid QDs; Connect two Node-2 fluid line heater cables; Connect five Node-2 Stbd avionics cables to Node-2; Release Node-2 Stbd CBM (Common Berthing Mechanism) petal launch locks (8 latches); Mate remaining SSPTS (Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System) umbilical (connector J16A) to PMA-2 (ctr P16); Install Lab/Node-2 gap spanner on two handrails (Lab and Node 2); and

Remove Stbd SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint) Cover 7, using PGT (Pistol Grip Tool) on its 6 bolds.]

Get-ahead tasks include: Release Node-2 Port CBM petal launch locks (8 latches). [Nadir CBM launch locks remain closed at this time to prevent the unlatched petals from opening (due to lost pin); Re-installation of CETA (Crew & Equipment Translation Aid) Light Fixture; Clean-up of Lab MMOD (micrometeoroid/orbital debris) shield.

The EVA has since been completed, with reports from the spacewalkers that the race rings appear to be ‘pitted’. Images are now being downloaded to Houston for a closer look.

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