TCDT concludes, FRR begins – STS-125 slips to NET Oct 14

by Chris Bergin

STS-125’s Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) – the dress rehearsal for next month’s launch – ended at 11:00am local time this morning, as shuttle managers head into the SSP (Space Shuttle Program) Flight Readiness Review (FRR).

While the Agency FRR sets the launch dates, NASA managers have now confirmed a NET (No Earlier Than) launch date of October 14 for STS-125, which also slips STS-126 to NET November 16.

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Technically, Atlantis is behaving admirably at launch pad 39A, with the upcoming slip to the launch date relating mainly to the lost week of operations at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) during hurricane Ike.

The processing milestones at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also added additional pressure on the October 10 target, following the delays to the Hubble payload making it into the Payload Changeout Room (PCR) at the weekend. The payload will be installed into Atlantis’ Payload Bay on Thursday.

‘HST payload arrived at vehicle on pad A on Saturday night. During lift of payload to PCR, experienced material interference between shoes on canister and guiderails on PCR (used to help align payload canister during lift),’ noted KSC Ground Operations.

‘Set canister back down, did small mod to shoes, and successfully lifted canister. Actual transfer of payload into orbiter will occur Thursday.’

A handful of IPRs (Interim Problem Reports) are being worked at the pad, with only one issue requiring a level of troubleshooting. That issue relates to one of the limit switch, which – despite numerous cycling the system – failed to active on the Manipulator Positioning Mechanism (MPM) on the Remote Manipulator System (RMS).

‘IPR: MPM troubleshooting continued yesterday. During 1st shift, the fwd RMS/MPM pedestal number 2 limit switch still didn’t activate when the pedestal was in the stow position; six stow/deploy cycles were performed,’ added processing information.

However, manual cycling of the system showed the switch was not rigged perfectly to indicate stow for the MPM. Since there is another switch that is working without issue, the system can fly as-is, with further work deferred to Atlantis post flight flow.

‘During 2nd shift, the team verified copper path of limit switch by operating in manual mode,’ which was briefed to the crew via a meeting between the astronauts and Atlantis’ engineers last night.

The STS-125 crew are at KSC for the TDCT, which involved them boarding Atlantis this morning for the dress rehearsal countdown for next month’s launch.

‘CTS (Call To Stations) was completed at 0730L yesterday,’ added the morning report from NTD (NASA Test Director). ‘Navaids activation, Comm activation, Comm Command to Launch configuration, and ascent switchlist configuration are complete. Crew ingress 0730 this morning. T-0 at 1100L.’

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Meanwhile, back at JSC, the SSP FRR kicked off for what will be a two day meeting overview of STS-125’s status and mission overview. Every aspect of the final servicing mission to Hubble will be overviewed by the team, led by Shuttle manager John Shannon.

The final stage of the FRR process will be conducted early next month by the Agency FRR, which will set to launch date for STS-125. However, Mr Shannon and his team will take the opportunity to announce a slip to STS-125 at the conclusion of the meetings on Thursday.

The main driver for the launch date is now focused on the loss of a full week at JSC, following the shutdown during hurricane Ike. This has had a detrimental impact on the preparations for the launch, ranging from crew related timelines, to the schedule of Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) schedules.

Based on the latest information on Wednesday, it is likely that the yet-to-be-announced launch date for STS-125 will be NET October 14 – a real time slip of nearly five days, based on crew requirements.

UPDATE: Now officially changed to NET October 14.

However, it could have been far worse, had JSC received serious damage during Ike’s rampage through the Houston area.

‘JSC damage was repaired quickly. Had no water in tunnels, little wind damage. Lots of us are distracted,’ noted Mr Shannon on the latest Shuttle/Stand-up/Integration report, who was making strong references to the personal impacts some of the JSC workforce have had to endure post-Ike.

‘Damage in our area varies; some folks are without power and some have devastating property loss.

‘Ellington Field had some significant damage. Most visible part was Guppy hanger and T-38 shelters. Roofs on the two hangers set us back. Were heroic efforts by civil servants and contractors to get Ellington back up,’ added the Flight Crew on the Stand-up.

‘Flew ten T-38s back on Friday and STA to support TCDT. Are operating at Ellington at somewhat reduced capability; don’t see impacts to flight operations for next Shuttle launch. Appears there was a tornado there.’

EVA added: ‘Working impact assessments based on loosing folks in Houston for over a week. Came in late last week and removed some EVA hardware out of chambers and started flight shipment processing. Starting work on EMU battery cycling; all that hardware should be available to meet ship dates.

‘Working with Engineering on tile and RCC repair to get status. Will cancel EVA Tool and EMU Panel this week to allow folks to work assessments and get updates on at least internal exceptions they took so will be ready to go to FRR this week with status and assessment.’

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L2 Members: Refer to TAG keyword ‘STS-125’.

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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