STS-122: Atlantis home after perfect re-entry and landing

by Chris Bergin

Atlantis has concluded a hugely successful STS-122 mission, with a perfect re-entry and landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Atlantis and her crew of seven arrived back in Florida at 9:07am Eastern.

The vehicle has performed admirably, with only a few new issues arising during the final couple of days of flight.

**The most comprehensive collection of Shuttle, Ares, Orion and ISS related presentations and mission documentation, plus expansive daily processing documentation and updates are available to download on L2 **

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**STS-122 Special: 29 Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Presentations, Baselines and Mission Overviews. **Click here for FRR overview articles: Article 1Article 2** Payload Presentations and vast amounts of live, uploaded images and presentations, movies (several) – already 3900 megabytes strong**

**STS-122 MMT Level LIVE now active.
**STS-123 L2 Special Build-up in full swing (MOD FRR Presentations and Processing).


Flashes and Notes:

Payload Bay Door closure successful: All – including the starboard aft radiator retract flex – hoses retracted without issue. See: STS-122: Hose related news content (all exclusives): *Issue found/fleet to be checked (December)* – *Atlantis found to have problem* – *Managers discuss forward plan* – *Use of pole to aid retract* – *Successful Retraction*

Switching the landing to Runway 15, from Runway 33, at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Reason for change: Strong tailwind for 33 at HAC, and a QBar violation.

Poll is GO for the deorbit burn. Good burn, no trim required.

Re-entry and landing was issue free, with a perfect touchdown at KSC concluding Atlantis’ mission, as she is safed ahead of being towed to her OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) for preparation for STS-125 – the Hubble Servicing Mission.

Atlantis will enjoy three more missions in total – which was approved many weeks ago, though it has not yet been officially announced by NASA.

*Click here to review the pre-launch and mission articles*

STS-122 Pre-Landing MMT Round up:

Following the completion of Flight Day 13 pre-entry checks – such as the Flight Control Surfaces (FCS) and a hot firing of the orbiter’s Reaction Control Systems (RCS), the crew stowed belongs and equipment the cabin in readiness for their landing day.

Although some new issues arose over the past 24 hours, none are a constraint for the deorbit burn that will signal Atlantis’ return to Earth, which has received a go from the MMT.

‘The MMT met for the final time to review the orbiter status, the latest weather and the results from late inspection,’ noted MMT documentation on L2, which added that the results from Late Inspections of Flight Day 12 have been cleared for entry. ‘The LESS PRT has cleared the RCC for entry and the MMT is GO for Deorbit.

‘Orbiter Status: Several problems occurred since the last MMT but none will impact entry plans. FCS C/O (Check Out) and RCS Hot Fire were all nominal. Cryo and LiOH continue to be the limiting consumables for entry. Both support EOM+2 (End Of Mission).’

**Ride home through the fire, sparks and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. FIVE Stunning high quality 2hr, 355-400mb Camcorder and HUD videos – from payload bay closure – through re-entry with an astronaut held camcorder video – to post landing – several more videos showing landing from 90,000 ft also available and HUD videos from STA landings. Includes HALO II Re-entry video, and re-entry videos from Gemini and Apollo (converted from 8mm)**

The MMT discussed – and subsequently cleared – the latest issues for entry, with one problem receiving mitigation attention, as part of ensuring orbiter flow for Atlantis’ next mission – STS-125 to Hubble – is not hindered by additional work.

‘Loss of VERNS (four small steering thrusters on the orbiter): Due to a short in the Vern heater, the crew will remain on ALT Tail only until D/O prep starts. The change in attitude should keep the injector temps above the 40 deg limit for leak detection and KSC convoy has been advised for sniff checks,’ noted the MMT.

The issue is understood to have been caused by a short which failed a fuesable link. These thrusters are not required during deorbit and landing.

‘Believe a short downstream of the Aft LCA damaged the hybrid driver (most likely the source of the short was downstream of the hybrid driver) and induced the current spike that was seen on all three fuel cells,’ wrote one MMT member on the issue.

‘The prop margins still protect 3-3-3 for ALT dap and the attitude changes should be able to keep the injector temps above 40 deg to monitor for leakage.’

Other issues also hold no constraint to entry, ranging from a cracked bulb in the payload bay, to a communication problem during Flight Day 13.

‘Mid Port PLB Floodlight – based on current draw it appears to be a cracked bulb, but the crew should have adequate lighting to observe door closure,’ added the information on the latest issues. ‘Port AFT MPM Delayed Indication – it took 10 hours for the indications to transition to stow, this could be a rigging issue. MILA COMM C/O – had to manually acquire orbiter during comm checks, but should not impact entry.’

Erratic temperatures in the return hydraulic line from the right outboard elevon actuator was also observed, which required the evaluation of data from APU 3 (Auxiliary Power Unit) during the FCS checks, so as to ensure there wasn’t a leak in the system.

‘FCS C/O was nominal so don’t believe it is indicative of a leak. System was benign when the temp was erratic with no circ pumps for some time. This is the second backup system for this actuator,’ added MMT information.

‘We are still thinking about the RTN line sensor. Don’t think it is a leak given the APU performance during FCS C/O. Could be a debond of the sensor or instrumentation since nothing else responded to this temperature rise.

‘Entry Plan Update: Due to erratic RTN line temps on HYD SYS3 ROB, APU 3 was used for FCS C/O to gather data. For entry the APU plan is 2 then 1 for a start plan.’

The results from Flight Day 12’s Late Inspections actually showed the highest number of Regions Of Interest (ROIs) since the use of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) – for Late Inspections – began with STS-121.

However, the vehicle is still being classed as the cleanest since RTF. The higher number is likely indicative of improved techniques used to find ROIs in the first place

‘Late Inspection Results: The MMT reviewed the results from the OBSS survey and the coverage and sensor performance was nominal,’ added the MMT. ‘There were 167 total Regions of Interest, of these 127 were in either the Flight Day 2 baseline or considered benign. Dispositioned 40 and has cleared the vehicle for entry with no issues.’

As far as the weather, this also appears to be pointing towards a favorable conclusion, with landing at KSC showing very acceptable conditions. Atlantis has two opportunities to land at KSC, with an additional opportunity at Edwards Air Force Base – if required.

‘Entry weather: KSC weather continues to look good for a Wednesday landing. For EDW there is still some instability in the system that could bring showers to the area. For Thursday weather at EDW improves but the warm front at the cape could bring a broken deck and showers.’

In all, the MMT appeared to be conducted in a relaxed manner, epitomizing the relatively issue free mission that STS-122 has enjoyed. One MMT note in particular backed that up.

‘Leland (Melvin – former NFL draft) might be able to find some NFL guys to help get the 240 lb BMRRM off the vehicle,’ joked the Flight Crew Office on the MMT notes. ‘Other than that no issues.’

L2 members: All documentation – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.

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