Delta II yields to allow two STS-123 launch attempts

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle manager Wayne Hale requested the program looked at launching STS-123 as early as March 9, due to a range conflict with a Delta II launch. However, given no contingency days remain in the flow, the launch was under threat of moving to the middle of the month.

However, following a debate on Saturday, the Delta II launch will yield priority to Endeavour, allowing two launch attempts on March 11 and 12, before standing down for the Delta II to launch on the 15th.

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STS-123 Status Update (Saturday):

Meetings on Saturday resulted in a deal that allows Endeavour to make the two launch attempts on the 11th and 12th of March. Should STS-123 fail to launch, shuttle will stand-down, allowing the Delta II to launch on the 15th.

STS-123 Status (Friday):

Endeavour is due to rollout to Pad 39A early Monday, in preparation for her mission to the International Space Station (ISS), carrying the first module of the Japanese laboratory, Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo), and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, (SPDM) Dextre robotics system.

Processing timelines show that a Monday rollover leaves no remaining contingency days remaining in the flow. Though challenging, it is possible to buy back a few days, should everything go to plan.

That would allow the possibility of launching before the Eastern Range becomes an issue, due to the launch of a Delta II 7925, carrying the GPS IIR-19 satellite.

‘There is a Delta II GPS rocket launch on the Eastern Range on March 13. This would technically preclude us from having Shuttle launch on March 11,’ noted Hale on the latest Stand-up report.

‘Delta II GPS folks have moved for us before, but they have a relatively busy year, with three rockets to launch, which must be done by the end of their Financial Year. There is high level discussion occurring on this. SSP (Space Shuttle Program has asked many of its folks to look at potential to launch on March 9. This is under review, and would be a challenge.’

Discussions have been taking place that are looking at the alternatives, which includes launching around four days later than currently planned. However, that leaves only a short amount of time until the next Soyuz launch.

‘Found in discussions with TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) folks yesterday that March 9 presents a real challenge for TDRS scheduling. SSP is holding to March 11; if can’t launch Shuttle before GPS, launch would be around March 15, which would provide limited time before Soyuz flight.’

Whatever option is taken, Hale emphasized that any acceleration to the schedule for STS-123 has to be done without compromising the vehicle’s safe mission.

‘Would appreciate everyone working as hard as they can to help us launch as soon as possible doing our normal safe, solid consistent work,’ he added.

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Endeavour’s processing is proceeding well, as she closes in on the completion of the week-long mating operations ahead of rollout. Call to stations was scheduled for 04:00 Monday morning, and first motion at 07:00. However, this has been advanced by seven hours.

‘Weather looks questionable, but it will be monitored. Pad turnaround is accelerated, and will be watched closely; currently appears can support rollout Monday morning,’ added integration information before the advancement of the rollout time. 

‘Will deliver payload to pad Friday night. Plan to lower canister Saturday (have one day margin). Tested purge on vehicle and checked for contamination; must do some more testing on pad to validate that system.’

STS-122 Latest:

EVA-3 has been successfully completed, installing the two external ESA payloads: EuTEF and SOLAR, as part of the final spacewalk of STS-122.

Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR) Transfer: SOLAR is one of two European Integrated Payloads. SOLAR contains three instruments for sun observation: Solar Auto-Calibrating Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV)/Ultraviolet (UV) Spectrophotometers (SOL-ACES), Solar Spectrum Measurement (SOLSPEC), and Solar Variability and Irradiance Monitor (SOVIM).

During SOLAR transfer, the spacewalkers released it from the Integrated Cargo Carrier Lite (ICC-L) in the payload bay, maneuvered to the External Payload Facility (EPF) on the Columbus Module for installation.

European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF) Transfer: EuTEF is the second European Integrated Payload. EuTEF houses eight different experiments which measure orbital debris, radiation, atomic oxygen, etc. The EuTEF was released from the ICC-L, maneuvered to the EPF on Columbus, and was then installed.

Other activities included a Control Moment Gyroscope (CMG) Transfer. The new CMG, which was installed on 13A.1, saw the old CMG was stowed on ESP-2. This was released before being translated into Atlantis payload bay and installed on to ICC-L.

Atlantis herself only has one issue being evaluated, relating to her Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS).

‘FRCS Ox Press Line is trending low. There have not been any violations,’ noted information on Friday. ‘Engineering suspects a bad heater and will discuss potential troubleshooting options.’

Cryo update: Power consumption data continues to show that 70lbs of O2 will be transfered to the ISS from Atlantis on Flight Day 10 (Saturday).

The ISS also carried out a reboost with Atlantis – the first time an orbiter has been involved for around five years – on Flight Day 10, as the crew continued to finalize transfers between the two vehicles.

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