Endeavour docks with Station – OMS Pod evaluations on RPM images

by Chris Bergin

STS-123 is coming to the end of Flight Day 3, as Endeavour was commanded through the spectacular Rbar Pitch Maneuver (RPM). The orbiter then docked with the Station at 11:49pm EDT.

No major issues are being worked with the orbiter as she completed the second half of Thermal Protection System (TPS) checks. Initial TPS findings point to both OMS Pods requiring closer evaluations via the RPM imagery.

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Tile damage noted on both OMS Pods (no information at this time on level of damage). Protruding gapfillers also observed. New article will follow.

STS-123 RPM and Docking:

Following Flight Day 2’s Inspections via the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System), the RPM allows for a high resolution photo survey of Endeavour’s TPS, allowing a complete picture on the health of the heat shield.

The nine minute maneuver was debuted on STS-114’s Return To Flight mission, following months of planning by shuttle experts at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).

They were tasked with the limitations on crew and sensor visibility, maneuvers conducted about an unstable orbital station keeping position, inherently unstable attitude dynamics, thruster plume impingement on the ISS, shuttle propellant limitations, and a very tight set of lighting and geometry constraints for the inspection photography.

ISS crewmembers used their DCS-760 digital still cameras with 400 and 800mm lenses at SM windows 6 and 8 to take target imagery. Once downloaded to the ground, technicians will check every inch, in finite detail.

Such as been the ‘clean’ nature of the flight so far, the Mission Management Team (MMT) have not yet been required to meet to discuss issues with the orbiter, and will convene for the first time during this mission on Wednesday.

‘Shuttle and ISS Systems are performing well,’ noted the report to the STS-123 team in Houston. ‘First MMT is scheduled for Wednesday. First STS-123/1JA IMMT is scheduled for Thursday.

‘Crew completed all FD (Flight Day) 2 tasks. NC2 and NC3 burns were nominal. Starboard Wing, Nose Cap and Port Wing surveys are complete. OBSS is berthed. EMU Checkout completed. Two good suits with no issues. RNDZ Tools checkout was successfully completed. ODS (Orbiter Docking System) Ring Extension was nominal.’

Only a few minor issues have been reported with Endeavour, though none hold any impacts to the planned mission.

The Flash Evaporator System (FES) is working on the second of three strings, following issues with Pri-A (primary string). There are no plans to troubleshoot this issue further, given its safe configuration.

While a software reconfiguration (GMEM) – used to recover a Reaction Control System (RCS) L5L leak data point – was uplinked and successfully executed overnight, engineers are checking into a new ‘funny’ regarding an erratic O2 Tank 1 quantity transducer.

Engineers have also updated the status of a shift in pressure relating to APU 1 (Auxiliary Power Unit), which became erratic about 14 seconds prior to MECO (Main Engine Cut Off), which was believed – and now confirmed – to be instrumentation.

‘Update: APU 1 Gas Gen Chamber Press Transducer Shift – data review indicates instrumentation problem,’ noted Mission Evaluation Room (MER) information. ‘Pressure reading stabilized after APU shutdown.’

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Meanwhile, at the end of Flight Day 2, Endeavour’s middeck experiments were activated. These middeck payload elements rarely gain a mention, despite their role in carrying out additional science opportunities on the orbiter.

The middeck payloads – as per STS-123’s Payload Flight Readiness Review (FRR) presentation – are listed below:

Cell Wall and Resist Wall (CWRW): A pair of plant experiments utilizing the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) facility. Cell Wall will examine the genes responsible for the construction of the cell wall (rigid outermost layer) in Arabidopsis thaliana (a small plant of the mustard family) in 1g and microgravity conditions; the cell wall of plants plays a crucial role in forming supporting tissues.

Resist Wall will examine the role of microtubule-plasma membrane-cell wall continuum (a collaboration between plant elements to maintain structure) pertaining to gravity resistance in A. thaliana plants; and clarify the mechanism of gravity resistance, which is an essential response for plant development against a gravitational force.

Double Coldbag: A passive low temperature science storage resource; provides cold conditioning for samples when paired with ISS Cold Enclosure Phase Change Material Augmenting Capsules (ICEPACs).

IMMUNO: Determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after working and living on ISS Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN) – A powered ‘rear-breathing’ middeck locker equivalent refrigerator/incubator that provides thermal control for temperature sensitive experiments from -20.0 to +48.5 degrees C.

Microbial Drug Resistance and Virulence (MDRV): Studies effects of space on the virulence, drug resistance and gene regulation in 4 common microbes. This work will allow a greater understanding of the effects of space flight on potential pathogens and facilitate development of effective antimicrobial therapeutics.

National Lab Pathfinder (NLP): Commercial payload in support of the National Lab Pathfinder effort. NLP Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert (CSI) Resupply: Educational experiments for middle and high school students, examining miniature tomato plant development in microgravity (gravitropism and role of key genes) and silicate garden metal salt growth processes. NLP-Vaccine-1A: pathogenetic organisms using spaceflight to develop potential vaccines for the prevention of infections on Earth.

Nutritional Status Assessment (Nutrition): Study human physiologic changes including measures of bone metabolism, oxidative damage, nutritional assessments, and hormonal changes. Repository: Biological Specimen Repository for the collection, processing, storage, maintenance, and ethical distribution of biosamples to meet goals of scientific and programmatic relevance to the space program.

Short Duration Bioastronautics Investigation (SDBI): Integrated Immune: Validate a flight-compatible immune monitoring strategy. Sleep: Study of sleep quality/patterns and activity and light exposure during space flight.

Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO): A European Space Agency study of the interaction of circumnutation (the bending or turning of a growing stem tip that occurs as a result of unequal rates of growth along the stem) and gravitropism in 1g and uncoupling at microgravity.

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