STS-130: Endeavour arrives in the VAB for mating

by Chris Bergin

Endeavour has completed her rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), ahead of mating with External Tank (ET-134) and the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). No issues have been worked in her recent processing flow, with only a minor requirement to replace a flash on the ET umbilical well camera being noted by engineers.


Endeavour was placed on top of the Orbiter Transporter System (OTS) on Thursday, following final checks relating to her weight and Center of Gravity (CG) for the short trip into the transfer aisle inside the VAB – and a review to ensure all assets were ready to receive the orbiter for mating.

“Orbiter: OV-105 (OPF Bay 2): Orbiter jack down and Weight/CG is complete. Orbiter mate to the OTS for rollover is complete,” noted Friday morning NASA Test Director processing information on L2.

“The Orbiter Roll-out and Mate Review (ORMR) is scheduled for today at 1000 EST in KSC HQ Rm. 3201; Orbiter roll-over to the VAB is scheduled upon completion. S0004 ET/Orbiter mate operations are scheduled to begin once the Orbiter arrives in the VAB this afternoon.”

Now inside the VAB, Endeavour will be hooked up to the sling crane, in readiness for being lifted into the vertical position, where she will “hang” for photography to be taken of her belly Thermal Protection System (TPS). This imagery is used to cross reference with any areas of interest noted both at the pad and during on orbit inspections.

Shortly after, Endeavour will be raised out of the transfer aisle, through a gap in the High Bay separation walls, and lowed into place with the STS-130 stack that awaits her.

STS-130 Specific Articles:

Work on the ET/SRB stack has been proceeding without issue, ahead of the next phase of operations that would normally take around a week of processing, prior to the stack rolling out of the VAB and heading to the launch pad. However, due to the Christmas holidays, Endeavour will remain inside the VAB for an extended stay.

“ET-134 / SRB BI-141 / RSRM 109 (VAB HB-1): Left and Right EDAS Installations are in work. Left and Right SRB HDP (Hold Down Post) Ordnance Installation; Ordnance complete. Blast containers installed. Safety wire complete,” added processing information.

“SRB HDP Plunger Installation is in work. Orbiter Mate preps; Umbilical cover plate removal is in work. Weekend Work: S0004 Orbiter/ET mate. ET/SRB stack ready for Orbiter mate.”

Endeavour’s OPF flow has been almost trouble-free, with very few IPRs (Interim Problem Reports) – as has been the case with a number of the recent flows. Only one issue requires work once Endeavour is stacked, relating to the ET Umbilical Well camera/flash system.

A2“The ET flash for STS-130/20A was checked at KSC. It appears to have leaked, so the inert gas with which it was pressurized was slightly above ambient temperature,” noted the Orbiter Project Office (OPO) on the latest Shuttle Standup/Integration report. “It is being returned to JSC and a new unit will be installed on Endeavour. This is not an impact to rollout.”

The camera system is used to take photography of the separated External Tank after MECO (Main Engine Cut Off), with the flash aiding the quality of the imagery.

This system allows for the imagery to be downloaded on the ground, and used to pinpoint foam loss – some of which may have impacted the orbiter during the ride uphill – in order to cross reference any debris relates issues during the DAT (Damage Assessment Team) process.

Problems with the camera/flash system have occurred on a few recent flights, including an issue ahead of Endeavour’s STS-127 launch, when ground testing noted the flash was only working via ground system power supplies.

The system’s operation on ground power, versus orbiter battery power, was deemed as the likely reason the system was proving to be temperamental. However, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) has since been included as potentially part of the root cause.

Meanwhile, Shuttle managers have set the dates for the two main Flight Readiness Reviews (FRRs), with the two day Space Shuttle Program (SSP) FRR due to take place between January 19-20, followed by the Agency Joint FRR on January 27 – with the latter setting the launch date.

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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