Atlantis rolls to the VAB – STS-400 threatening STS-125 launch date

by Chris Bergin

Atlantis finally left her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1) on Friday night, and has arrived for mating in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), following a Tropical Storm delayed trip.

Meanwhile, the long pole in making the October 8 for STS-125 remains with the Launch On Need (LON) requirement, which is tasked with Endeavour – as evaluations continue with the forward plan for a valve replacement, and continued inspections on her External Tank (ET-129).

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Atlantis/STS-125 Latest:

Atlantis had 11 days of contingency in the bag, prior to the delay of the original rollover schedule.

Previous flows have been down to the final day of flexibility, before launching on schedule, meaning Fay has not caused too much strain on the October 8 target in Atlantis’ flow.

‘The weather may pose a threat to the October 8, 2008 launch date for STS-125, but we have four contingency days remaining,’ noted processing information.

Fay dropped roughly 10 inches of rain on KSC and 20 inches at Cape Canaveral, though any serious flooding and damage appears to have been avoided.

‘No damage to Shuttle flight hardware. VAB: Several Panels are loose or liberated from exterior on west side,’ outlined an assessment report on Friday. ‘Plywood panels lost on south side. All Damage to be repaired or mitigated by 1800 hrs Friday.

‘Pad A: Lower Dock Seal damage, PCR (Payload Changeout Room) water intrusion. Light fixture liberated from fuel farm. Catacombs full of water, pumps not operating. Pad B: Lower Dock Seal damage. PCR water intrusion.

‘Elevator door on Pad surface blown in. Hoist room door on 215ft level blown in. Firex valve near gate sheared off (will require outage to repair).

‘OPF 1, 2, 3: Interior walls of all three highbays leaked. 1 and 2 lowbay/annex have some water damage. OPF 3 break room has ceiling damage.

‘CCAFS (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) Processing Facilities: Hangar AF, Major water intrusion. Water remediation contractor is on site performing remediation assessment and removal. Approx. 100 ceiling tiles down.

‘Hangar N: All stairwells have water on floors and steps. One pane of glass missing from highbay windows with minor water intrusion. Several ceiling tiles damaged/down.’

Atlantis left OPF-1 at just after 10pm local – an extension on the normal 9pm constraint for an orbiter rollover – for the short trip to the VAB. She will spend a week being mated with ET-127 prior to rollout to Pad 39A.

The Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Flight Readiness Review (FRR) continues to be on schedule for September 11.

L2 Members: Refer to TAG keyword ‘STS-125’ for related L2 presentations, images and notes, etc.

Endeavour STS-400/126 Latest:

There still may be a sting in the tail for the target of an October 8 launch date for STS-125, due to the unique LON requirement of STS-400 – tasked with Endeavour.

Two problems are being worked, one in OPF-2, and the other in the Checkout Cell in the VAB’s High Bay 2. Both have the potential to impact the schedules.

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The first relates to a O2 System 2 Pressure Transducer valve, which is still under evaluation – not helped by the shutdown of KSC this week – for what is expected to be a removal and replacement of the box containing the valve.

The last time the hardware was replaced, it took five weeks. However, if the process is approved, a 24/7 operation over 18 days would be called for – which still places a large amount of pressure on Endeavour’s rollover next month, notably with closeouts being required after the operation is complete.

‘The crossover valve and panel MO10W has options ranging from R&R to running a hard-line to bypass the failed valve,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report.

‘An assessment is needed from KSC Ground Operations regarding these options. More time will be needed because of closure of KSC.’

The option of bypassing the valve would take less time to complete, but holds a number of concerns which still need to be evaluated.

‘A key concern is the potential for downstream FOD (Foreign Object Debris) contamination if the jumper line is installed. Input is needed from KSC to resolve this problem.’

The issue with ET-129 – related to continued evaluations into a noise that was heard to be coming from inside the tank during its transition inside the VAB – is officially classed as the ‘long pole’ to achieving STS-400’s arrival at Pad 39B in time to allow for Atlantis to launch on schedule.

X-rays and borescope checks into the inside of the tank to look for any potential FOD were interrupted by the closure of KSC.

‘The STS-126/400 ET/SRB Mate Review was set for August 22, but has slipped,’ added the Stand-up. ‘An issue to discuss at the review concerns the noise from ET-129 and results of the inspection.

‘Hoped for results of X-rays and other inspection, but that won’t happen because (of) KSC (closure). The long-pole issue for STS-125 launch remains the noise in ET-129.’

L2 Members: Refer to TAG keywords ‘STS-400’ and ‘ET-129’ for related L2 presentations, images and notes, etc.

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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