Shuttle fleet in smooth processing on both sides of the United States

by Chris Bergin

Discovery is on track for her weekend cross country trip back to the Kennedy Space Center, whereboth  her sisters are deep in processing for their upcoming missions.  Post flight evaluations into Discovery’s STS-128 mission will converge at the In Flight Anomaly Review (IFA) at the end of the month, though initial findings continue to point towards an excellent performance from the veteran orbiter.

STS-128/Dryden Latest:

Discovery may depart from the Edwards Air Force Base – home of the Dryden Flight Research Facility (DFRC) – as early as Friday, pending a smooth processing flow at the Mate/Demate Device (MDD). The only issue encountered so far related to a lift platform that required repair.

“OV-103 (STS-128/STS-131): Orbiter turnaround operations continue in California. Continuing to work aft access,” noted the latest Shuttle Standup/Integration report on L2.

“Had some issue with high winds; are down 12 hours (contingency) overall, and (had issues with) the Aerial lift platform (Condor) – worked a couple of other options in case that didn’t work in a timely fashion. Still scheduled to start the ferry flight back to KSC this coming Friday.”

With the platform soon repaired, work was proceeding at a good pace throughout Tuesday.

“Orbiter: OV-103/Edwards AFB Turnaround Operations: Post landing operations are in work. SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engines) drying operations were complete on Monday. Cryo offload is complete; PRSD (Power Reactant Storage and Distributation) tank inerting is complete,” added Tuesday morning processing information on L2.

“AFT access continues; 50-1/2 doors have been removed. Pyro LCA boxes 1, 2 & 3 are mated. Baggie leak checks are complete. QD (Quick Disconnect) Mates for OMS Ball Valve Cavity Drain are complete. Fuel Cell Repressurization and Inerting complete.

“Fuel Cell Repressurization and Inerting complete. 44 door removal is in work, having trouble removing one fastener. Condor issues have been resolved. It is in position and in use. All plugs in the ‘crotch’ area, left and right, have been installed.”

As with Atlantis’ STS-125 mission, which was the previous mission to conclude in California, Discovery’s Flow Control Valves (FCVs) have already been removed from the orbiter’s Main Propulsion System (MPS) to head their fabricator “Vacco” – who are based on the West Coast.

“Flow Control Valves are removed and purge plugs have been installed. Flow Control Valves will ship to VACCO,” confirmed the Standup report, which will allow for timely inspections for any signs of cracks, prior to their reuse in a downstream mission.

Click here for articles on the FCV issue since STS-126.

TPS (Thermal Protection System) Ferry flight inspections are also complete, aided by the clean flight of Discovery that resulted in only a handful of minor ‘cosmetic’ areas of damage during her mission – as reported on Monday via the runway report.

A5“The runway TPS Quick Look is out. The report indicates that overall the vehicle looks good. There were only around 15 tiles that had damage of >1”, which is good,” the Standup report continued. “The Boundary Layer Transition (BLT)-2 withstood the flight well also. There was no visible slumping. On the catalytic coating experiment, got a mixture of black color flaking, so the team will have to access it.”

“On the BLT DTO (Detailed Test Objective), looks like it tripped at Mach 18,” added the Orbiter Project at the Johnson Space Center. “For the High Thermal imagery, it looks like the Mach number at closest approach was 15 or 16. The long-range acquisition data was estimated at Mach 19.”

With all the initial inspections confirming an issue-free mission – from launch to landing – Mission Management Team co-chair LeRoy Cain praised the team for an outstanding effort.

“Friday was a great finish to an outstanding mission, just a beautiful landing out at Dryden. Folks are working hard on getting Discovery turned and prepared for the Ferry Flight. Looking forward to getting her back to the Cape,” Mr Cain added to this week’s Standup report.

“Congratulations to the whole team on an outstanding mission. It was a wonderful effort from beginning to end.

“We are well on our way towards getting ready for STS-129. It looks like everybody is chugging right along. Great job! If you did not get a chance to do so yet, take a little time off now that we have the crew back safely and before we get too far into the thick of preparing for STS-129. Appreciates the great effort. We are really on track.”

STS-129 Processing Latest:

Atlantis returns to ISS missions – following her flagship mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for a final time – with the aforementioned STS-129 mission, set to deliver the Express Logistic Carriers 1 and 2 (ELC-1 and ELC-2) to the Station.

The launch date – currently in early to mid November – remains under evaluation due to several conflicts, including with the Russian launch schedule. An article on the issues will follow this week, as a November launch may not be viable.

For now, Atlantis remains on track to meet her processing milestones, with the mating of her twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and External Tank (ET-133) due to take place next Monday inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

A2“In VAB, have completed SRB stacking over the weekend. Into joint closeouts. Target is to mate the ET next Monday. On ET-133, last week completed all the backscatter X-rays. +Z Plug pulls are complete and repairs are in work. Of the 48 pulls had 1 location with an “adhesive failure” and 3 “low PSI value” locations. Lockheed Martin has data for analysis.”

On the tanks, the evidence continues to point to a one-off issue with ET-131, when several areas of its intertank liberated during Endeavour’s ascent, likely caused by a dust-related contamination issue during its foam application at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF).

With the successful plug pulls on ET-132, and no major issues reported so far with ET-133 – with only the one adhesive failure out of 48 pulls reported – the tests are classed as due diligence being carried out on the next tank to fly, in order to ensure nothing has been missed ahead of flight.

As a result, it is unlikely managers will call for a similar amount of plug pulls that were conduced on ET-132 – which saw hundreds of tests being carried out both in the VAB and out at Pad 39A, in order to satisfy the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) level investigation into STS-127’s foam liberation events.

With Atlantis herself, the only main issue during her recent flow came via the re-installation of the Orbiter Docking System (ODS), which wasn’t required for STS-125’s mission to Hubble.

A3The problem came during testing, when the ODS ring did not stop after reaching the ‘Initial’ position (76 percent extended) but continued to drive further. Engineers had to call for emergency stop at 88 percent extend for troubleshooting.

“Troubleshooting was performed and they were unable to re-create the problem. Telecons were held with Energia (contractor of the Russian Space Agency) and the technical community,” added a communication between engineers and Shuttle manager John Shannon.

“The most probable cause is most likely a sticky push button on the APDS (Androgynous Peripheral Docking System), but we headed down the UA (Unexplained Anomaly) path. We ran the ODS (with the suspect APDS) through several tests after the initial failure and it has performed nominally.”

With the APDS panel replaced, functional tests – conducted infront of Russian experts that were flown into Florida – were successful. However, a new issue with the system was reported at the end of last week.

“Last week, did ODS (Orbiter Docking System) upper hatch pressure dome leak check; that failed,” added the Standup report. “Have changed out the upper hatch and collar seals; are in a 72-hour cure. Later this week will pick back up with the pressure dome leak check.”

Processing is continuing with orbiter closeouts, retests and leak checks inside Atlantis’ Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1), as outlined in the latest flow updates.

“OV-104 (STS-129): Over the weekend, started CEIT (Crew Equipment Interface Test). Picked up a few minor squawks (issues),” noted the Standup report. “SSME gimbal checks, and SSME leak checks (completed). Picking up camera checkout. Completed cabin leak check over the weekend.”

A cabin pressure leak check decay rate was deemed to be too high during testing, but was soon resolved. “Troubleshooting found a vent line was open. The line was capped and system passed retest.”

“SSME TVC (Thrust Vector Control) and caution and warning checkout was completed with nominal results. Bodyflap PDU leak checks were completed and aerosurface positioning followed,” the flow update on L2 continued. “RCS (Reaction Control System) vernier heater checks (picking up). OMS closeouts will pickup Wednesday and run through the week.

“WLE (Wing Leading Edge) flight battery installation and end-to-end testing picked up Monday and continues through Wednesday.”

STS-130 Processing Latest:

A4The first of five scheduled missions in 2010, Endeavour’s STS-130/20A flight will deliver and install the final US module to the ISS. This module, the Node-3 and adjoining Cupola unit, is currently undergoing processing for flight in the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) at KSC.

Endeavour, processing in OPF-2, is deep into her STS-130 flow, following her return from the highly successful STS-127 mission which delivered the final piece in the Japanese jigsaw on Station.

“MPS (Main Propulsion System) flowliner inspections continue in work. Picking up with preps for FRCS (Forward Reaction Control System) installation,” noted a Standup level report overview of processing. “The FRCS will be coming up in the HMF (Hypergolic Maintenance Facility) this week; will install this coming Saturday.”

Endeavour’s flow was expanded on during the latest daily processing update, which listed no issues in work for the youngest orbiter in the fleet.

“Fuel Cell 2 R&R picked up on Monday and is continuing. The old fuel cell 2 has been removed from the orbiter and installed into its shipping container. MPS 12in flow liner inspections are continuing. Water Spray Boiler (WSB) checkout and servicing picked up Monday and is continuing.

“Window 7 removal was completed Monday and new window installation is in work. Hydrogen separator R&R began Tuesday. APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) leak checks and GN2 QD heater functional picked up Tuesday. LOMS engine GN2 relief valve functional is scheduled to pick up on second shift Tuesday. ROMS engine GN2 relief valve functional is planned for Wednesday.”

Marking a busy flow for the fleet, the next set of SRBs are being built up in the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF), waiting their turn to be stacked on a Mobile Launch Platform (MLP), while STS-128’s booster mating with the ET takes place.

“SRB/RSRM BI-141/ RSRM 109 (RPSF): Right Aft Booster Build-up. RT-455 Application to Stiffener Rings is complete. Aft IEA Installation. Task is ready-to-work after PDL repair on ETA ring insta-foam,” added processing information.

“ETA Ring Instafoam Application. Pull test is complete and acceptable, less the Aft side of the ETA ring at the 34 Degree location. Instafoam removal at 34 Degree location is in work. Strut And Receiving is complete. Extender Cable Installation in the ETA Ring is complete. Systems Tunnel Cable Installation. Task is ready-to-work after Instafoam R&R.”

Their partner, ET-134, will soon ship from MAF – with the New Orleans facility enjoying a smooth flow on all its downstream tanks, an achievement that is often overlooked when considering the fight back they have made since Return To Flight and the horror of Hurricane Katrina.

“ET-134: Everything is going nominally for test/checkout activities in Building 420,” was all MAF needed to report on the Standup, with ETs 135 through 138 all on schedule for their downstream shuttle missions.

L2 members: Documentation – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, now over 4000 gbs in size.

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