FRR dates set for STS-125 as processing edges closer to rollover

by Chris Bergin

Atlantis is continuing to enjoy a green processing flow, as she closes in on rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in around three weeks time.

Final closeouts and tests are ongoing inside her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), while managers start to build up their documentation for the series of Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR) in September.

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STS-125 FRR:

The FRR process consists of several departmental, program and agency elements, ending with the agency level review which will approve the launch date for STS-125.

This process begins well over a month in advance of the launch date, with the MOD FRR, followed by departmental FRRs, which creates the documentation on all aspects of the vehicle and mission for review by the SSP (Space Shuttle Program) FRR.

Dates have now been finalized for the two major FRRs. The SSP FRR is scheduled to last two days – though it can conclude sooner – between September 11 and 12, before the concluding Agency FRR takes place on September 22.

While the FRR is a standard procedure to ensure safe flight, managers and engineers will be tasked with a busy final quarter to the year, due to the scheduled launch of STS-126 taking just a month after Atlantis is due to lift-off.

Although Atlantis is visiting the Hubble Space Telescope, and Endeavour the International Space Station (ISS), STS-125’s post flight IFA (In Flight Anomaly) – a post flight version of the FRR which has a large amount of relevance to the next mission – is likely to occur at the around the same time as STS-126’s FRR.

However, Shuttle manager John Shannon is confident – as he should be – that his troops will be able to handle the busy period without issue.

‘The second tank (STS-400/STS-126’s ET-129) is around two weeks away from delivery. That will mean a significant ramp-up in activities we are doing as a team getting ready for HST and STS-126,’ Shannon wrote in the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report.

‘The improvements in Ground Processing are helping achieve the goals we set out. It will be a really busy fall, and we are seeing across the board that the team is on the right track to get this done.’

STS-125 Processing Latest:

Atlantis is close to being ready for rollover from OPF-1, with the orbiter on a more advanced flow, due to her need to wait for External Tank mating to the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to be completed.

Updated: Mating will now take place on August 3 (Sunday), with operations then continuing throigh S0003 operations to rollover, which could happen as soon as August 18, based on improved ground processing. Previously, rollover was tracking August 22.

Work in OPF-1 is proceeding smoothly, with only a few items of interest being worked, which is normal for any processing flow. These include continued work on a Master Timing Unit (MTU) issue and troubleshooting on her UHF radio.

‘MTU update: Troubleshooting was performed yesterday with no re-occurrence of the anomaly. Additional troubleshooting will be performed today,’ noted Wednesday processing information. ‘All results will be evaluated on Thursday.

‘UHF Comm. System checkout preps begin tomorrow night. Call-to-stations is Friday morning.’

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Otherwise Atlantis is well ahead of scheduled – based on her current rollover date – with leak checks and pre-rollover work in the process of being finalized.

‘Forward Structural Leak Test/ Orbiter Compartment Positive Pressure Test was successfully completed yesterday. Work on the aft structural leak checks is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

‘The Strongback was removed yesterday. The ERB (Engineering Review Board) reviewed the Manipulator Positioning Mechanisms (MPM) fastener issue, which was constraining removal, and gave concurrence to proceed. The MPM fasteners remain an open issue.

‘Final aft rollout preps and closeouts continue throughout the week. Aft door installations remain scheduled for Saturday. Door 44 installation was delayed for a closeout inspection, and will pick-up today. PLB (Payload Bay) torque tube fit checks were rescheduled for today.’

Also noted on the latest information is an item of interest with the Reinforced Carbon Carbon (RCC) panels on Atlantis, after one the panel’s T-Seal shifted slightly in flight during her previous mission – STS-122

Engineers have carried out further checks on new panels that have been fitted on Atlantis for STS-125, to ensure the installation was within spec based on their latest findings as to what may have caused the panel to shift during STS-122, potentially via a previous installation process – from which they found no problems.

‘On RCC panels for OV-104, after the last mission where the T-Seal in Panel R shifted a little in flight and had the type A flow, the team went out to review the step and gap data on the new installed panels on OV-104: 10R, 17R, 14L, 16L, 17L,’ noted NASA’s Orbiter Project.

‘They looked at all the step and gap data and don’t see any potential issues for the next flight. Have good installs on all those panels. sked them to look at the hot panels on both sides, to make sure have good step and gap on Panels 8-12 on both sides.

‘Will change the spec for looking at the step and gap, and take data differently. Anytime a panel is reinstalled, will take step and gap data in the ‘free state’ before the panel is locked down.’

Back in the VAB, Atlantis’ tank is undergoing pre-mate processing, which includes a few items of required repair work, namely with the damaged GN2 two inch disconnect valve – which has now been replaced, and a repair to slight cosmetic damage on the Helium Inject Line – which has now begun.

‘External Tank: ET-127 (VAB HB-4 Checkout Cell) GH2 2” disconnect leak check is complete,’ added processing information. ‘LO2/LH2 17” Disconnect measurement/adjustment is complete. Helium Inject Line R&R is in work with foam removal.’

Atlantis remains ‘officially’ scheduled to launch on October 8 – with a Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) meeting in two weeks set to discuss the latest flow elements related to STS-125, in order to see if the date can be moved to up October 5 – based on an already modified Change Request (CR).

The requested change to October 5 can only be approved if several processing milestones fall into place, namely the arrival of STS-125’s payload, crew training and ET-129 – the External Tank that will be mated with Endeavour, prior to rolling out to Pad 39B as the LON (Launch On Need) shuttle – STS-400.

STS-400/126 Processing Latest:

The CR is based solely on a desired advancement of STS-126 by a few days, due to a restricted launch window that affected by a Beta Angle Cutout – which kicks in after November 25. Should STS-126 fail to launch by that date, the next opportunity isn’t until early 2009.

One of the major factors in allowing the advancement of the launch dates is ET-129, which is currently undergoing seven days a week – three shifts a day – processing at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans.

A previously desired shipping date of August 2 can no longer be achieved, with the completion date currently showing work will continue until August 10 – though MAF are trying their best to bring down the shipping date.

‘ET-129: Are off the top of the intertank and H2 tank, with the exception being the aft end of the tank where closeout activities continue,’ noted the latest report from MAF. ‘Have TPS (Thermal Protection System) closeouts associated with aft end, recirculation line base, manhole cover hand packs, and prep for vertical strut knuckle sprays.

‘Testing is going well. The initial pressurization of both the LOX and H2 tanks are complete. Completed various functional tests such as camera system functional, ullage calibration, and bipod heaters. Leak checks are in work. Tanks are pressurized for further leak checks. Should start installation of composite nose cone this weekend.

‘Another key event is always getting out of the intertank and progressing towards getting the intertank door on, which is one of the key milestones to getting into an all-systems test. Levels 4, 3 and 2 of scaffolding inside intertank were removed.

‘As of this weekend, it looks like the August 11 date has moved back to August 10, and will continue leaning toward the left on schedule.’

The Pegasus barge – which has only recently dropped off ET-127 for Atlantis – has again departed the turn basin yesterday and is now en-route to MAF to pick up ET-129.

With the tank arriving at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) around August 15 – if the current schedule holds – the PRCB members will consider the tank’s flow inside the VAB, which has been refined of late, in order to come to an initial decision on advancing the launch dates.

Endeavour herself is – like her older sister – enjoying a smooth processing flow, as she heads towards Friday’s Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT).

‘CEIT preps continue throughout the week. Midbody crosshair installation and temporary stow of port TSA tools were both completed yesterday,’ noted Wednesday processing information.

‘Potable water servicing began yesterday; all potable water tanks have been drained. APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) 1 and 2 GN2 flight pressurization and bottle servicing is complete. Commenced with 48-hour decay check for APU 1, 2, & 3.’

In the adjacent High Bay to STS-125’s stacked boosters, STS-400/STS-126’s SRBs are expected to complete stacking operations this Friday, meaning two full sets of SRBs will be sat in the VAB awaiting mating with their respective tanks. STS-125’s stack is located in High Bay 3, with STS-400/STS-126’s stack in High Bay 1.

‘The RF Segment was moved to the VAB this morning,’ added processing information. ‘Stacking of the RF segment will be worked today and tomorrow, followed by the LH/RH Forward Assemblies on Friday.

‘SRB stacking, will continue stacking this week and have that completed by Friday.’

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