STS-124 under threat of moving to June – Cain promoted

by Chris Bergin

Despite STS-124’s slip to May 31, an issue free processing flow towards launch is required to avoid slipping into June – according to shuttle manager John Shannon, who now has LeRoy Cain officially promoted as his deputy.

Meanwhile, following similar issues with Discovery and Atlantis, a bent radiator retract flex hose has also been found on Endeavour – which has led to engineers looking into a way to film the hoses retracting on orbit during STS-124.

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STS-124 was delayed to May 31 due to the late delivery of ET-128. However, it is understood the date is still fluid due to a lack of contingency days in the current flow towards launch.

‘Is still a challenge for processing to make that date,’ confirmed Shannon. ‘Regardless of launch date, roll to pad date would be the same.’

It is by no means the first time the engineers have been challenged by a lack of contingency time, thus May 31 is still achievable. Aiding the ability to make the launch date is Discovery herself, with the orbiter issue free and almost ready to rollover at the end of the month.

‘On vehicle in OPF, PLBDs (Payload Bay Doors) were closed Friday for roll. Work on OV-103 (Discovery) in OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) has tailed off, and have been moving much of resources to OV-104 (Atlantis) and OV-105 (Endeavour). Have no problem making rollover date,’ noted processing information.

‘Had good weekend and are off to good start processing tank for May 31 launch date.

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‘Jack transfer to the aft 570’s was performed yesterday. Main landing gear (MLG) strut pressurization was completed yesterday. MLG sep harness mates are also complete. ET doors were verified at centerline for flight yesterday. OMS closeouts picked up yesterday and continue through Friday.

‘PRSD O2 manifold decay test was completed yesterday and good. O2 T-0 POD de-mates are also complete. 72 Hr decay test is scheduled to begin Wed 3rd shift. Preps for the orbiter compartment positive pressure test were worked yesterday. The nose and main landing gear will be raise today to support this test which is currently scheduled for Wednesday.’

Endeavour Hose:

Even though Endeavour has only recently returned from her STS-123 mission, the focus of attention is being placed on her readiness – more than Atlantis – due to being the LON (Launch On Need) vehicle that will support STS-124.

One item of interest has been noted since her Payload Bay Doors were opened over the weekend, with engineers surprised to discover that one of the four radiator retract hoses was bent.

The problem has only been seen on a handful of flights during the life of the shuttle program, before appearing again with both Atlantis and Discovery recently. Not to be left out, Endeavour has now joined the kinked hose club.

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*

‘PLBDs opened Saturday. Found another radiator hose kinked. Wasn’t quite same type of bend as omega bend, more like didn’t fully go back in box. Other hose bends were on starboard aft, but this was on starboard forward,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration Report.

The issue with the hoses relates to the potential of a freon coolant leak when the hose kinks during the closure of the Payload Bay doors on orbit – ahead of re-entry.

While a mitigation process of isolating the loop protects against such a leak, engineers are looking into why the issue has started to arise with the entire fleet of late.

“Bent radiator retract hose is at starboard forward. Are calling it a “C” bend. It’s not as severe as the other bends. Previous bends observed were between door and upper set of rollers, so hose had not gone through first set of rollers and was bunched up between door and first set of rollers. The C bend is between the two sets of rollers (didn’t get into box). PRT will investigate.

Understanding the problem could be aided by taking video footage of the hoses during Payload Bay door closure on orbit during STS-124.

“Will work through bend found on OV-105 over weekend. OV-105 is the LON vehicle. Will discuss this for next two flights and options to R&R it in long term,” added JSC’s Orbiter Project.

“This hose closed with no bend on pad in 1G. Will ask Mission Ops to take video of hoses on STS-124 during de-orbit prep (not done on last flight) to understand differences between closing in 1G and Zero G.”

This is the only post flight issue that is being evaluated ahead of next week’s engineering review of STS-123, which will result in all flight elements undergoing an IFA (In Flight Anomaly) overview. This is mainly used to see if any lessons can be learnt ahead of the next mission.

“STS-123 appears to be a clean flight; only have two IFAs, on normal lift-off debris and aft shield tile loss,” added System Engineering and Integration, with the Orbiter Project adding that the mission’s T-RAD demonstration package will soon receive certification testing.

“On TRAD DTO flown on STS-123, TSA will be removed toward end of week. Will have team in place next week. Will look at samples on vehicle next week, get them back to JSC around the week of April 7. Will show the various samples.

“Have fairly extensive plan to test and characterize the material performance (adhesion, porosity); will eventually do Arc Jet testing.”

Pushing the ET processing schedule:

Engineers at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans are continuing to attempt to mitigate delays to STS-125 and STS-126 – both expected to slip to October and December respectively.

The latest report this week points to MAF ‘accelerating the pace’ on ET-127 – which is required for STS-125, and also LON for STS-124 (riding with Endeavour). MAF also report work is proceeding well on ET-129 – which is the tank that will ride with Endeavour on her primary STS-126 mission.

“ET-127: In final assembly, all ice/frost ramp base trims are complete. Still have one ice/frost ramp lower pour to do and 1593 station inboard pour. Are accelerating pace on tank work,” noted MAF/Lockheed Martin.

“Are working on ogive cover super light ablator (SLA) and electro-mechanical installations. Sprayed A and C pockets on longerons last week and will transition to B pocket sprays. Sprayed LH2 feedline base and are working to install recirculation line; bi-pod temperature sensors are bonded, and that harness is in preliminary routing. Doing preps for camera antenna installation.

“ET-129: Have cut out all 14 LH2 ice/frost ramp base windows, nine of which have primer down and isolator pads are installed. Intertank scaffolding is installed. Poured three LO2 ice/frost ramps. Are making good progress.”

Management Changes:

Since the promotion of Shannon to take over from Wayne Hale as shuttle manager, NASA has been working on a management realignment. Taking a step up – as expected – is LeRoy Cain, who now becomes the deputy shuttle manager.

More changes are expected, such as Cain’s replacement at KSC, and a permanent Orbiter Project Office (OPO) manager.

“LeRoy Cain (currently Launch Integration Manager at Kennedy) is moving to JSC to be a SSP (Space Shuttle Program) deputy,” noted management information.

“Steve Stich will be acting orbiter manager while that position is opened for competition. Steve Poulos introduced himself as the new Deputy Director of Engineering.”

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