STS-128 – Atlantis’ 2009 mission baselined by PRCB

by Chris Gebhardt

With Atlantis now undergoing mating operations with her External Tank for the STS-125 flagship mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA mangers have begun planning the vehicle’s next mission – with a baseline of the STS-128 flight by the Program Requirements and Control Board (PRCB).The STS-128 mission, slated for launch in late July 2009, will carry the 17A launch package to the International Space Station (ISS) and its newly increased crew of six.

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Mission Specifications:

Atlantis’ 31st mission will be an 11 day, two EVA flight to the ISS, as well as the first flight of the OI-34 Flight Software and the last scheduled ISS crew rotation to be undertaken by the Space Shuttle Program (SSP).

For this mission, Atlantis’ primary payload will be the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Leonardo and the Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC).

Among the various upgrades and modifications to be made to Atlantis during her 245 day OPF flow for STS-128 are normal TPS work, re-installation of the Orbiter Docking System (removed to support STS-125), an APU Quick Disconnect Heater modification – as first noted in the latest STS-119 baseline article earlier this month – and the installation of Middeck Partition Panels.

In addition to these modifications, technicians will undertake a wide-variety of tasks with Atlantis to get her ready for STS-128 – a notably extended processing flow as she returns from the HST mission configuration, to the first of two ‘newly’ allocated ISS flights, following her ‘stay of execution’ in 2008.

One of these tasks is the removal of an OMS Pod Micro-WIS Strain Recorder. Certified for four flights, and added to Atlantis’ Left OMS Pod after an anomaly during Endeavour’s STS-100 mission, the recorder was designed to ‘obtain environment data for analysis of harmonics,’ notes the 84 page PRCB presentation – available for download on L2.

While the recorder will be removed from Atlantis, the associated wiring will be stored in the immediate area.

Another piece of work pertaining to Atlantis’ airlock is the relocation of the D-Hatch Decal. Based on a report by the STS-124 crew which stated difficulty in closing and latching the upper airlock hatch, NASA mangers are looking to relocate the actuator handle position decals to their correct locations.

‘Attempts (during STS-124) to position the actuator handle over the decal that indicated the correct ‘pre-closing’ position were unsuccessful as a hard stop was encountered prior to reaching that position,’ notes the PRCB document.

‘When D-hatch was designed in 1982, the decal was inadvertently located in original A/B hatch position (20 degrees from fully unlatched).’

Also on tap for Atlantis’ OPF flow is the installation of one of the mission’s payloads: TriDAR.

‘The autonomous rendezvous and docking sensor (TriDAR) will be integrated into the Orbiter system to demonstrate technology for autonomous rendezvous and docking in Low Earth Orbit (LEO),’ added the PRCB document.

TriDAR is scheduled to be mounted to Atlantis’ airlock truss next to the Trajectory Control Sensor #2.

For the STS-125 flight to Hubble, Atlantis will fly with a temporary fix of Velcro D-hatch decals – a fix that was desired by the Flight Crew.

Yet another enhancement on tap for Atlantis is the EVA Lock-out Bolt Retention Improvement.

‘The new design concept is a simple rework method for the secondary locking feature that will allow locking without prematurely tightening or loosening the bolt or hindering EVA operations,’ added the document.

‘(The improvement (adds a secondary locking feature to the EVA lock-out bolt on the Payload Retention Latching Assembly (PRLA) standard / heavy weight longeron latch.’

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Highlighting NASA’s efforts to stave off damage to the Orbiters during their OPF flows is the addition of Acreage Doublers to Avionics Bays 4, 5, and 6 of Atlantis.

‘Installs cold bonded protective doublers to the honeycomb facesheet on the aft avionics bay 4, 5 and 6 doors to provide additional resistance to impact loads and ensure life of honeycomb panels,’ the PRCB document noted.

The baseline also goes on to note several incidents of damages and dents to the avionics bay doors during routine ground processing, claiming: ‘Protective doublers over the entire acreage will prevent future damage and work stoppage during damage assessment and repair effort.’

Aside from this work, Atlantis’ STS-128 flow will see a good portion of the vehicle’s Wing Leading Edge (WLE) inspected for corrosion.

The need for this inspection is based on an OMRSD (Operational Maintenance Requirements and Specifications Document) requirement to ‘perform a detailed external inspection of the wing leading edge (WLE) spar installation including spar fitting and spar insulator attach holes.

‘Document evidence of structural degradation, corrosion, or other structural abnormalities. The intent of the requirement is primarily to find corrosion.’

Per the OMRSD requirement, a partial corrosion inspection is required for each orbiter every three years with a full inspection of every orbiter’s 44 RCC panels every four and half years.

For Atlantis, the three year partial inspection will be conducted during the STS-128 flow with a complete inspection necessary by January 2010 – before the vehicle’s final flight on STS-131.

In order to assure that both of these requirements are met, NASA mangers have put forth a plan to perform additional inspections during the STS-128 flow, with the baseline adding: ‘Spreading the inspections over the next two flows will allow more of an opportunity of assuring the requirements are met.’

Lastly, the STS-128 baseline document notes a payload Atlantis will carry to the ISS to support an issue with the Station’s LiOH canisters. Recently, excessive dust has been noted inside the ISS’s stockpiled LiOH canisters. To help mitigate this issue, Atlantis will carry several nomex cloth covers to the ISS.

‘Nomex cloth covers (will be) placed over the LiOH canisters (to) mitigate dust generation due to can-to-can contact during stowage,’ notes the PRCB document.

The covers will also protect the flight wrapper from potential breaches which could result in LiOH exposure to atmosphere.

STS-128 will also be the second Thrust Oscillation Seat DTO (Detailed Test Objective) – following on from STS-119 – which are aimed at providing the Constellation Program (CxP) with valuable launch vibration data as refinements to the Ares I launch vehicle and Orion capsule continue.

Although ‘Crew Seat Isolation’ mitigation options did not make the list of techniques that are being classed as ‘solving’ TO on Ares I, documentation shows this will be added after the PDR (Preliminary Design Review) – article will follow this coming week.

For the DTO, three Mission Specialist seats will be outfitted with triaxial accelerometers. After recording data during launch, the accelerometers will be removed and stowed during the post-insertion/

‘Astronaut records visual function from middeck locker mounted card and other symptoms during launch profile,’ noted the text byline associated with the graphic. Around three DTOs will be carried out via this method – with TO data being gathered on flights throughout 2009.

STS-128 is currently manifested for July 30, 2009 – though the 2009 schedule remains fluid, based on External Tank deliveries.

L2 Members: Refer to TAG keyword ‘STS-128’ for related L2 presentations, baselines and information, etc.



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