Parallel Processing for STS-125 continues to focus on External Tanks

by Chris Bergin

While STS-125’s External Tank (ET-127) continues to be processed inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), ahead of mating with its Solid Rocket Boosters on August 3, Endeavour’s stack is also starting to take shape.

Endeavour – tasked with STS-400 Launch On Need (LON) support – is awaiting delivery of her tank (ET-129) from the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) within the first two weeks of August, while SRB stacking is over 50 percent complete in the VAB.

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STS-125 Processing Latest:

The complex ballet of dual processing – which will ultimately result in two shuttles being out at the launch pads 39A and 39B at the same time – has been aided by two extremely smooth processing flows inside the Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs).

Atlantis, tasked with the flagship STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for the final time by a shuttle, now has her Payload Bay Doors closed for rollover – currently expected on August 18.

‘Hubble Space Telescope mid-body highly sensitive cleaning is complete. Payload Bay Door closure occurred earlier than scheduled and was completed on 2nd shift Thursday night,’ noted the latest processing information from OPF-1.

Orbiter closeouts have been continuing around the closure of the Payload Bay Doors, along with regular system checks, with only one note – related to the Data Processing System onboard Atlantis – requiring an element of troubleshooting.

With Atlantis in great shape, the main focus on attention in the flow remains on the recently arrived ET-127, which has required a removal and replacement of a damaged valve, to be followed by work on an inject line assembly.

The damaged the GH2 2 inch disconnect valve is being worked on over the weekend by Boeing engineers, with the Helium inject line assembly also to be R&R’d early next week.

‘Boeing is on-site working the GH2 2” disconnect R&R and the Angle/Tip Load work today and thru the weekend,’ added processing information from the VAB. ‘The He inject line assembly will be R&R’d after 2” disconnect work is complete.’

The Helium inject line assembly was slightly damaged by accident during TPS (Thermal Protection System) work in the VAB. Although it was only slightly scuffed by sandpaper during the closeouts, NASA – as always – insist on a perfect tank, leading to the rework of the foam pours and trimming.

‘During He inject box TPS closeout trimming, the thermal braiding covering an aluminum tube was inadvertently scuffed while manually sanding with sandpaper,’ added processing information. ‘An R&R will result in the reperforming of the He inject box pours and trimming.

‘An ET/SRB Mate Review, held Friday morning (places) mate currently scheduled for Sunday, 8/3.’

Another factor in play for STS-125 is the completion of the Flame Trench repairs at Pad 39A, following the liberation of thousands of bricks during STS-124’s launch.

Progress has been noted as superb, as contractors continue to move towards the completion of work, which involves the spraying of the Fondu Frye refractory concrete into the damaged wall.

This application process is expected to be completed by the end of the month, ahead of all work being finalized by August 11.

‘At Pad A, work on flame trench activity is proceeding per plan. On Monday, began application of fondue fyre. Tracking August 11 to complete this work,’ added United Space Alliance (USA) Ground Operations.

‘The contractor completed the first half of the Fondu Fyre application for Row 2, after the contractor welded the steel grid in the remaining areas on Row 2 and installed the second application for Fondu Fyre.’

‘On OV-104/STS-125, primary item they’re supporting is flame trench repair,’ added USA Logistics. ‘Do have an additional 40 bags of fondue fyre.’

As previously reported, managers intended to have an array of sensor instrumentation embedded into the Flame Trench wall, so as to gain a better understanding of the environments during launch – and to pre-empt any required repair work.

While all the instrumentation will be in place ahead of STS-126’s launch in November, managers are hoping to have at least some sensors in place ahead of STS-125’s launch in October.

‘Received initial quotes back for instrumentation on transducers and pressure sensors for flame trench,’ added USA Logistics. ‘Initial quote from supplier is August 20, but working to pull this back to August 11 need date.’

STS-400/STS-126 Processing Latest:

In OPF-2, Endeavour is continuing her parallel processing flow just slightly behind Atlantis, with no issues being worked. Pressure checks and work around her recently installed SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines) has made up the bulk of the recent flow.

‘Preparations for SSME foam installation are complete – work continues,’ noted the latest processing information. ‘Main Propulsion System helium bottle fill is complete. Window Contamination Control System (WCCS) servicing is in work.

‘Flow check and decay checks are complete and the left hand manifold is in a 12-hour drying period. Right Hand Radiator Retract Hose sniff checks are complete and good. Nose landing gear cycles, Mylar pulls, step and gap measurements, and clay measurements continue all week in support of TPS.’

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Meanwhile, booster stacking in High Bay 1 – next door to High Bay 3’s STS-125 operations – is progressing well, ahead of the arrival of Endeavour’s tank, ET-129.

This tank continues to have its shipping date jump around, mainly due to the requirement to remove and replace a cable harness, which pushed out the completion date as far as August 11 last week.

MAF report that they hope to push this back to August 9, though this is unlikely to be soon enough to be within the timeline to support the potential advancement of the STS-125 launch date – with the prompt arrival of ET-129 being one of the major factors that will be discussed at a Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) meeting next month.

‘ET-129: SRB R&R harness activity is complete and table tray covers have been installed. Going into handpack and foam applications that were pulled out. Continued in parallel with work from final assembly and critical path work for Building 420,’ noted Lockheed Martin ET processing latest.

‘LOX manhole covers are installed and leak checked. Doing testing leak checks on actuation tubing and then will begin coming out of the intertank. All various aft interface TPS work continues in parallel. Terahertz scans are complete. Back scatter is in work.

‘Shakedowns are progressing. Still projecting an August 11 completion date; working to pull this in to August 9.’

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