STS-123 LIVE: Endeavour counting down for launch

by Chris Bergin

Endeavour is now into the final stages of the STS-123 launch countdown, with the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) finally retracting over three hours behind schedule. Tanking of ET-126 will take place at around 5pm local, ahead of a launch targeting 2:28 am EDT. is providing extensive multi-layer interactive live coverage on the links below (read more).

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Over 35 Checklists and Handbooks, plus STS-123 Flight Plan and Detailed Mission Timeline Overviews. 

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 **LIVE news updates on Endeavour STS-123 PAD FLOW**

Latest News:

A chipped tile on Endeavour’s nose section was photographed by engineers late on Sunday. It is not deemed to be an issue for launch.

RSS retract over three hours down, due to lost time gaining images of the tile chip and comm check issues – the latter has to be resolved ahead of retract.

Retraction finally started at 8:30am local time.

Mission Overview:

Endeavour’s16+1+2 mission has two launch attempt opportunities before of giving up the range to a Delta II launch – carrying GPS-IIRM-6 – from Cape Canaveral.

She’ll be carrying six N2 tanks and five Cryo tank sets loaded full – which will result in a planned 25lbs O2 transfer to the ISS ahead of undocking, along with 50 lbs N2. Pre-launch, this equates to 176 hours pad hold time.

Riding on Endeavour will be Commander Dom Gorie, Pilot Greg Johnson, Mission Specialist and EV-3 Robert Behnken, Mission Specialist and EV-2 Mike Foreman, Mission Specialist Takao Doi, Mission Specialist and EV-1 Rick Linnehan, Mission Specialist 5 Garrett Reisman – who will replace Expedition 16 crewmember Leo Eyharts on the ISS.

Endeavour’s payload consists of JLP (JEM ELM-PS: Japanese Experiment Logistics Module – Pressurized Section), SPDM/SLP (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator on SpaceLab Pallet), SSRMS Yaw Joint, Two DCSU’s (Direct Current Switching Units), MISSE-6: LWAPA (Light Weight Adaptor Plate Assembly), two PEC’s (Payload Experiment Containers) and RIGEX (Rigidizable Inflatable Experiment).

On the middeck: MERLIN (return WAICO samples), ISS Logistics, MAUI (a), DTO 853, DTO 848 (T-Rad Thermal Protection System Repair Techniques).

Endeavour’s 16+1+2 mission has five planned EVAs, which make up a large part of the major mission (Cat 1) priorities: Rotate ISS FE-2 (Reisman for Eyharts), Install JLP on Node 2 Zenith and perform critical activation, Transfer SLP to ISS MBS POA, Stow OBSS on ISS, Transfer water and other critical items. There are over 40 mission objectives in total (Cat I to 4)

First Flight Operations for this mission includes the use of planned mission operations scenarios for ballasting plan, along with the use of the Mobile Base System (MBS) Payload and ORU Accommodation (POA) for assembly operations.

This will also be the third flight of Primary Avionics Software System (PASS) and Backup Flight System (BFS) Operational Increment 32 (OI-32)

‘PASS and BFS configured for 3-string GPS navigation. One new PASS code patch for STS-123 (minor discrepancy correction). Allows manual deselection of a failed Speed Brake Thrust Controller switch contact before De-Orbit. No BFS changes,’ noted FRR documentation.

‘Third Flight of MEDS Integrated Display Processor (IDP) /MEDS Multi-function Display Unit Function (MDUF) combination (VI 5.00/5.00). No changes for STS-123. Seventh flight of Miniature Airborne Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver Shuttle 3 String (MAGRS-3S) Link 7. No changes for STS-123. Second flight of 3-string GPS – no software anomalies on STS-118.’

A major factor of this mission will be the transfer of OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System) to the ISS ahead of STS-124’s arrival in May, the transfer and connection to Orbital Support Equipment (OSE), connection of OBSS Keep Alive Umbilical, along with conducting a docked late inspection prior to final EVA.

Other unique elements involved with the missions includes the Detailed Test Objective (DTO 848) Tile Repair Ablator Dispenser (T-RAD) – which will provide an additional repair technique for damage sustained by an orbiter. This flight will also be the first use of MSS 5 software and the full use of LINUX servers.

It’s been a superb effort by NASA and related contractors to get to this point, due to the turnaround time required after STS-122 landed. While the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is more than capable of launching shuttles within four to five weeks of each other, a major factor is the review process of the previous flight.

Thankfully STS-122 proved to be one of the cleanest flights ever, by way of orbiter performance and the clean flight of ET-125, which only suffered eight notable debris events during the ride uphill.

Regardless, ever scrap of data had to be reviewed by the post flight IFA (In Flight Anomaly) process, before being summarized at the STS-123 Flight Readiness Review (FRR), as the program gained the required insights from Atlantis flight, as they head towards Endeavour’s trip to the ISS.

Crews will undergo Sleep Slams:

Due to the mission launch and timeline, the crews will suffer what’s described as a ‘sleep slam’. This was evaluated by the Space Life Sciences Department, who ordered specific sleep patterns to avoid sleep deprivation.

‘ISS Sleep Impacts of STS-123: Initial shift for ISS crew is around a nine hour slam to the left. Shifting prior to an uncertain launch is resisted by Russian community,’ noted SLS on their Flight Readiness Review presentation. ‘Gradual leftward shift for both crews during docked ops, dictated by Shuttle timeline.

‘Left shifts mean earlier to bed and earlier to rise, and are more likely to lead to sleep deprivation. Next workday starts early regardless of whether crews are able to get to sleep early the night before.

‘Post-undock, ISS crew is slam shifted again, by around 11 hours to left. Driven by constraints for ATV Demo 2 and ATV docking, which occur 7 and 10 days after undock as planned. Crew must have at least six days of stable (unshifted) sleep prior to these and other critical (Class I) events, such as EVAs and robotics.’

Special notes for EVAs:

Overgloves will be used again to protect the spacewalker’s EMU gloves, following their success on STS-122. The five EVAs are each scheduled for 6hs 30mins, bar EVA-2, which will last around seven hours.

‘All EVAs planned to be accomplished within a 6:30 timeline except EVA 2. EVA 2 is planned for 7:00,’ noted STS-123’s FRR presentation for EVA. ‘Shuttle Crew Scheduling Constraints (SCSC) wavier for EVA duration approved by PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board).’

Other notes of interest for the upcoming EVAs include a ‘no touch’ zone on the airlock the spacewalkers will depart from, following the observation of damage on part of the hand rail.

‘MMOD damage reported on Airlock – noted during EVA 1 on STS-122/1E. Detailed photos taken and swatch test performed during EVA 3. Photo analysis complete,’ added the FRR presentation.

‘Photos not detailed enough to determined if there is a sharp edge, appears to have a raised edge. Inspection of swatch from on-orbit inspection in work.

‘Performing microscopic evaluation at ILC Dover and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) evaluation at LaRC. Results of preliminary visual inspection of swatch, shows signs of cuts in RTV consistent with recent in-fight RTV damage.’

As part of risk mitigation procedures, the short term solution for the area of hand rail is likely to advance into a longer term effort to cover the affected area, or to even repair it.

‘Risk Mitigation: Suspect section of the hand rail will be noted as a no-touch zone until investigation is complete. Crew has been informed. No touch zone will be documented in EVA Procedures. Additional mitigation steps are in work. Potential installation of a cover over the affected area. Potential removal of the affected section of handrail.’

Expanded EVA notes from documentation will be published on each Flight Day with an EVA.

SARJ Power Analysis:

Following the issues with the ISS’ starboard SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint), managers had to conduct power analysis calculations on adding additional modules to the Station.

The SARJ allows closed-loop, controlled rotation of the outboard power modules of ISS. Combined with the Beta Gimbal Assy (BGA) rotation, allows direct sunpointing of the Solar Array Wings (SAWs) during orbital operations.

Following the observations of metallic debris present on the Starboard SARJ rotating components, along with degradation of the SARJ race ring is evident from video, photos, and materials analysis of samples, rotation of the arrays is limited to Safety and Mission Critical operations and Root Cause Investigation Activities.

‘Analysis performed in two stages Initial work – no array constrained events (i.e. docking, water dumps etc.) Time-phased analysis of dynamic events. Analysis assumed a nominal power configuration,’ noted the ISS FRR presentation..

‘Russian power transfer based on beta. Three SSPTS (Station-to Shuttle Power Transfer System) feeds included. Only standard power downs during dynamic events. Electrical loads balanced between channels. Power generation used different SARJ angles based on beta angle.’

Those results found that the ISS will be in a good power configuration for the arrival of STS-123’s payload, and for the next two flights.

‘Analysis shows no issues for nominal 1J/A mission. Results show positive margins for all beta angles below 62 degrees (supports through May 18th). Payload minimum keep alive power maintained during dynamic events,’ added the findings.

‘Tightest margins during dynamic events. All solar arrays restricted due to thruster plumes Margins not driven by SARJ anomaly. No issues identified during the 1J/A stage for any SARJ position. Power maintained above payload keep alive requirements.

‘Program continues to assess follow on missions for power availability 1J and ULF2 missions and stages show acceptable margins ULF2 analysis still in work for SARJ transition work.’

STS-123’s mission will also start the process of solving the SARJ issue, with a planned installation of a Trundle Bearing Assembly (TBA) during EVA-5, which will also be utilized to inspect SARJ Datum A point of interest and SARJ covers (5) – as a get ahead task.

LON (Launch On Need) Capability:

Discovery is the LON vehicle for STS-123, which would see the orbiter and a four man crew of Kelly, Ham, Garan, Fossum launching to pick up the STS-123 crew, in the event of serious damage being sustained by Endeavour on orbit.

Though STS-124 has been moved back a month, due to issues with the production of ET-128, consumable status on the ISS is healthy – and about to get better, with the arrival of the ATV and Russian Progress in April and May respectively.

‘O2 is most limiting consumable at 86 days (3/11/08 Launch Date). Duration for O2 and all other consumables is greater than LON turnaround capability of 60 days (LON LD 5/10/08),’ added FRR documentation.

‘Food is 98 days, waste containment is 106 days, water is 151 days, and CO2 removal is unlimited. O2 capability assumes Elektron operational, OGS not operational, Orbiter docked for 32 days, full A/L HPGTs. ATV (April) or 29P (May) docking will provide additional capability.’

Regardless, should the need arise, Discovery would be ready to launch within 32 days after the rescue mission was called.

‘In the event of call-up by SSP, STS-324 would be flown on OV-103 using the STS-122 Base Load as well as the flight specific I-load patches released for the STS-322 Rescue LON.

‘Pre-Callup work: Patch for flight specific I-Loads was generated and released for STS-322 training. Post Call-up: Development/release of 1 PASS data patch, 1 BFS code patch, 1 standard PASS GMEM (OMS Mixed Crossfeed), 1 PASS/BFS I-load Patch, Level 8 Testing and Integrated Avionics Verification.’

This article will be updated through to launch and FD1.

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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