Monday marks another busy episode in the 2008 shuttle surge, as Endeavour rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) with the STS-123 stack, ahead of her opening launch attempt on March 11.
Meanwhile, Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Flight Day 12 of the hugely successful STS-122 mission, ahead of what is hoped will be a Wednesday’s landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
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The crew of Atlantis and the ISS closed the hatches between the two vehicles on Sunday, following the completion of Columbus outfitting and transfers. Atlantis will also bring home Daniel Tani, who swapped places on the station with Leopold Eyharts.
Flight Day 12 began with the Group B powerup and maneuver to the undock attitude. Once in the undock attitude, the orbiter will undock and perform a one revolution flyaround before executing the separation burns.
The sep burns are followed by a simo dump, before Late Inspections – required to give the orbiter one final check of her Thermal Protection System (TPS) via the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) for clearance to re-enter.
Should any major problems be found, Atlantis will still be close enough to return to the station. Once the TPS is cleared, Endeavour will be officially stood down from her LON (Launch On Need) requirement.
No issues are being worked on Atlantis, with only the FRCS (Forward Reaction Control System) Ox Press Line, which was ‘trending low’, worked recently. The issue was with one of the associated heaters, which has since been placed on the b-string, despite the data showing the tending was minimal.
Other issues are classed as minor, and not a problem for Atlantis’ preparations for re-entry.
‘Small Leak at CWC Fill Mineral/Silver Biocide Injection Port – Similar issue seen on last OV-104 flight (STS-117),’ added L2 information on Monday.
‘N2 Flow meter transducer erratic reading. After completion of N2 repress, the N2 flow meter had four different erratic OSH spikes and the sensor is now stable.
‘This is the first flight of these new flow sensors. No indications of leakage or impact to flight ops.’
Four venier thrusters suffered a circuit failure, though they are not required for deorbit or entry.
STS-122 has easily been the been the most issue free and clean flight so far since Return To Flight.
This was backed up by comments from Deputy MMT (Mission Management Team) chair Leroy Cain, who praised the workforce for their roles in both the mission on orbit and STS-123’s preparations on the ground.
‘The performance of the orbiter and the station has been outstanding. Great tribute to this awesome workforce for an on-orbit crew and rolling out at the same time,’ noted the former Flight Controller.
‘Great time to be in this business, never seen people this excited or energized about the program.’
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Endeavour started to roll out of the VAB slightly earlier than the scheduled 00:01 timeline, moving out into the dark of the KSC crawlerway at 11:26pm, en-route to Pad 39A. She arrived around six hours later.
STS-123 is tasked with carrying the first module of the Japanese laboratory, Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo), and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, (SPDM) Dextre robotics system to the ISS – a payload that has already been taken to the pad.
‘The Payload was successfully transported to Pad A on Friday. The Payload was installed into the PCR over the weekend, and the payload canister was transferred back to the SSPF,’ noted processing information on Monday.
‘S0008 Shuttle Interface Test and V1149 T-0 Umbilicals and Orbiter/ET Interface leak checks were successfully completed over the weekend. VAB platform retractions were completed on Sunday morning to support roll out.’
Endeavour will have two launch attempts, on the 11th and 12th of March, before standing down as the Eastern Range reverts to a March 15 launch of a Delta II from next door’s Cape Canaveral. The deal was struck on Saturday, standing down evaluations on trying to launch on March 9, due to conflict with the ULA launch.
The USAF was also involved, following an approved request for the Thunderbirds to carry out a flyover of KSC during rollout, in order to gain a photo with the vehicle rolling out in the background. This was carried out at 10:15am local.
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