SSP Begins Review of End State Requirements for Orbiter Discovery

by Chris Gebhardt

With orbiter Discovery’s final move from her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) to the VAB for mating with an External Tank/Solid Rocket Booster stack scheduled for early Wednesday morning, preparations for the veteran orbiter and fleet leader’s post-last flight flow inside OPF-3 at the Kennedy Space Center have begun with an official review of the End State Requirements for OV-103.

Down Mission Processing and Operations & Maintenance Plan:

On the agenda for this past Thursday’s Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) was the discussion of the End State Requirements Review (ESRR) for orbiter Discovery, a review held mainly to “summarize the initial Orbiter requirements for OV-103 post STS-133 as referenced in NSTS-07700, Vol XX,” states the ESRR document – available for download on L2.

While orbiter Atlantis’s (OV-104’s) processing schedule following what was thought to have been her last flight in May 2010 was simplified greatly by her assignment to the STS-335 Launch On Need rescue flight, Discovery’s initial processing schedule is slightly more complicated given that the Orbiter has no official flight status after STS-133 despite the Shuttle program itself having one (mostly likely two) additional flights to complete before termination of the Program.

Given this unique situation, an initial plan has been designed to deservice Discovery from STS-133 while not proceeding full force with decommissioning and museum display processing.

In total, Discovery’s 30 day Down Mission Processing (DMP) post STS-133 (per the SPOC Extension attachment D) will include preliminary safing and securing of OV-103 (including Cryo offload, Waste System drain/purge, Waste Collection System removal, and select subsystem inspection) and on vehicle hardware preservation for manifest flyout and supportability.

To preserve selected hardware, Time/Cycle requirements will be performed on selected hardware LRUs (Line Replaceable Units) so that these items can be protected as spares for manifest flyout. Hardware identified for preservation on OV-103 at the end of STS-133 include Orbiter purge air, Orbiter power capability, and pad pressure. The Shuttle Connector Analysis Network (SCAN) will also be maintained to “track connector demates/mates thru final Orbiter power down.”

Furthermore, all standard post-flight assessments (such as post-flight problem tracking telecons and reporting, In-Flight Anomaly documentation and resolution, file IX review for items affecting safing, MADS review, MMOD strike inspections on Discovery’s windows, payload bay doors, and RCC panels, and Thermal Protection System post-flight inspections) will all be performed and reported to the Integration Control Board.

In addition, Discovery will continue to comply with all program configuration management requirements; all work necessary on Discovery following the post STS-133 OMP (Operations & Maintenance Plan) will be performed with certified personnel, will follow standard protocol for toll use, and will follow normal FOD (Foreign Object Debris) and access control.

The presentation also notes that all protective covers will be used to protect the vehicle’s RCC panels, MPS, PVD, and cold plates. All standard access platforms will be used and “grounded to protect components.”

However, unlike all other post-mission flows, no systems checkouts or turnaround type requirements will be performed and no waivers/exception will need to be processed for “normally planned OMRS (Operational Maintenance Requirements and Specifications) requirements which have been excluded from the post STS-133 OMP.”

Following completion of Down Mission Processing (DMP) from STS-133 and implementation of OMP procedures, three options have been drafted in relation to flight decommissioning and museum display preparation.

The first option places Discovery in a holding pattern until the final Shuttle flight has flown. By doing nothing and maintaining all systems and hardware on OV-103 until the last Shuttle mission has flown, this option maintains “full supportability and manifest flexibility of the fleet” and would delay all T&R (Transition & Retirement) safing/work until the last vehicle has flown.

Option 2 – which received the recommendation of the Orbiter Project Office (OPO) – would see a transition into some of the T&R safing work, specifically the removal of Discovery’s OMS Pods and FRCS (Forward Reaction Control System) pod for deservicing at the White Sands Test Facility. Fluid deservicing on NH3, 1 Freon, 1 H2O loop, APU hydrazine & lube oil, Fuel Cell H2O, and Fuel Cell 40 would also be performed under this plan prior to completion of the Shuttle manifest.

This option, as stated in the ESRD presentation, provides a “schedule advantage” over Option #1 and provides for a head start on certain T&R work. However, this early start to the T&R work provides less manifest flexibility and support because the deservicing of the OMS Pods and FRCS “gives up some thruster supportability and Pod swap flexibility.”

Nonetheless, this option gained the approval and recommendation of the OPO because all the work is recoverable (if necessary) and the early get work strikes a good balance between cost effectiveness and the intent of NSTS 07700 Vol XX to “maintain vehicle in a flight status until officially released from Mission status.”

Option 3, which was found to be too costly and a detriment to manifest support, would have been identical to Option 2 with the inclusion of cutting out and removing Discovery’s APUs and OMS/RCS hardware.

While this option would have provided for “maximum [decommissioning] schedule advantage” toward the T&R work, it would have proved too costly – with significant manpower necessary to reverse and reinstall components.

Non-KSC Final Orbiter Flight Landing Crew Cabin Ferry Requirements:

While it would, of course, be preferred that each Orbiter return for a standard End Of Mission landing at the Kennedy Space Center on their final flights, the possibility exists that Discovery (STS-133), Endeavour (STS-134), or Atlantis (STS-335/135) could be forced to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California or White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico.

Under this situation, a standard ferry flight configuration would be used as a starting point for DMP once the Orbiters are returned to KSC.

As set forth by the STS-133 CCCD -001, Rev. F document, “Standard -001 ferry flight configuration will be used for down mission processing.” This configuration includes, but is not limited to the removal of lockers, middeck payloads, bags, pre-routed cables, and misc stowed hardware.

The AFD panels, rear breather hardware, and stowage provisions (vehicle stowage boxes/brackets, etc.) would all be left in place for the ferry flight. Likewise, the Power Distribution Box and cable would remain installed for the ferry flight back to KSC.

The presentation further notes that any additional requests from the OPO for hardware removal or addition will have to be approved by the Flight Operations & Integration Control Board (FOICB).

“If Orbiter requests additional hardware removal or additions, and these changes to the standard -001 configuration are required prior to configuration control of post flight KSC ESSRD documents, changes will be authorized by FOICB.”

In addition to the removal of certain hardware, the addition of Crew Cabin ballast to meet ferry flight requirements might be necessary for Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis. “For STS-133 (OV-103) and STS-134 (OV-105), if Orbiter lands at alternate landing site and requires Crew Compartment Ballast the -001 ferry flight configuration will be updated to add ballast as required to meet final post landing mass property Ferry requirements,” notes the ESRD presentation.

The Crew Compartment ferry flight configuration will be approved by the Orbiter Ferry Flight Readiness Review and the Orbiter’s Crew Compartment will be returned to the standard -001 configuration for DMP upon return to KSC.

In the event that STS-335 becomes necessary (or STS-135’s funding comes through Congress), ballast will be added to the Crew Compartment as needed, but no mention is given to the necessity to remove that ballast and return Atlantis’s Crew Compartment to the standard -001 configuration upon return to KSC for DMP.

“For STS-335 (OV-104) or last program flight, if Orbiter lands at alternate landing site and requires Crew Compartment Ballast the -001 ferry flight configuration will be updated to add ballast as required to meet final post landing mass property Ferry requirements. New: Upon Ferry landing at KSC there will be no additional updates to the CCCD,” notes the ESRD presentation.

Post-Last Mission Processing and Museum Display Preparations:

Following initial vehicle post-last mission down processing and safing conducted by the Space Shuttle Program (expected to last around one month), each vehicle will enter a multi-month Transition and Retirement (T&R) safing period. This will then be followed by a “limited activity: integrated resource management period” that will ease the vehicles’ workforces into a ramp down of T&R safing and ramp up into the T&R configuration for display period.

Following this, specific work (estimated to last one and half months) will begin at the three chosen display locations for Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour – dubbed the T&R Display Site Ops period. It is expected that the Orbiters themselves will be “ready for ferry” half way through the T&R display site ops phase.

As presented in the ERSD, a multi-Orbiter flow chart detailing Discovery’s, Atlantis’s, and Endeavour’s safing/decommissioning/and final display ops flows in their respective OPFs reveals two possible timelines for the final KSC work on the iconic vehicles.

Under timeline #1 – which corresponds to Option #1 for Discovery’s post-STS-133 processing – Discovery would be the first Orbiter to complete the decommissioning process, with a “ready for ferry” to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in mid-February 2012.

While the location where each Orbiter will be displayed has not been officially announced by NASA, it has long been known that Discovery will be retired and displayed at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, the multi-Orbiter Flow Chart contains what could be the first indication that the Kennedy Space Center will get to keep one of the Orbiters. While Discovery’s and Atlantis’s post-last flight flows all contain the generic label “final display ops,” Endeavour’s flow culminates with “final KSC display ops.”

While this is far from any official confirmation, a final decision on where each of the Orbiters will be displayed is expected this fall.

Nonetheless, under timeline #1, Discovery would complete DMP from STS-133 in mid-December 2010 before entering a multi-month prohibition on T&R work until the flyout of the Shuttle manifest is complete.

(NOTE: the multi-Orbiter post-last flight processing flow chart does not take into account the potential flight of Atlantis on STS-335, nor does it bear any reference to STS-135. As such, all manifest flyout milestones are accessed to a March 2011 landing of Endeavour/STS-134 and an elimination at that point of STS-335 from the flight manifest.)

Based on a successful landing of the currently planned final Shuttle flight (Endeavour/STS-134) in March 2011, Discovery would then begin T&R safing operations in mid-March 2011. Her OMS Pods and FRCS pod would then be removed in mid-April 2011 and shipped to the White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) in New Mexico for deservicing.

T&R safing operations on Discovery would be completed around mid-August 2011 with the final power down of OV-103.

Discovery would then move into the T&R limited activity: integrated resource management period – during which her OMS Pods and FRCS pod would be returned from the WSTF in late-October 2011. The pods and FRCS would then be reinstalled onto Discovery at the start of T&R configuration for display site ops in December 2011.

Discovery would spend December 2011 and January 2012 in this phase before specific T&R work would begin at the Smithsonian in February 2012.  Discovery herself would be ready for ferry in mid-February.

Under timeline #1, the Smithsonian would be ready to accept Discovery in mid-March 2012 – making March 2012 the earliest possible final KSC departure date for OV-103.

For Atlantis, under the Option #1 timeline, post-last mission safing would take place in OPF-2 upon stand down from STS-335 ops in mid-March 2011.

T&R safing would pick up in May 2011 with OMS Pods and FRCS pod removal and shipment to the WSTF for deservicing occurring in the middle of that month. Atlantis would complete T&R safing in mid-July 2011 before entering the eight month long T&R limited activity: integrated resource management period.

Final power down of Orbiter Atlantis would occur in mid-October 2011 with her OMS Pods and FRCS pod returning from the WSTF in February 2012.

Atlantis would then enter the T&R final display ops phase in mid-March 2012 with the reinstallation of her OMS Pods and FRCS pod. Specific T&R display site ops would begin in May 2012 with Atlantis herself ready for ferry early that month.

Based on this schedule, the earliest Orbiter Atlantis could leave the Kennedy Space Center for the final time would be mid-June 2012.

In terms of Orbiter Endeavour, SSP safing would occur between mid-March 2011 and May 2011. Endeavour would then enter a 3-month T&R safing period, with removal of her OMS Pods and FRCS pod for WSTF deserving marking the end of T&R safing in mid-August 2011.

Eight months of T&R limited activity: integrated resource management period would follow, with Endeavour being powered down for the last time in mid-December 2011 – marking the final power down of an Orbiter.

Endeavour would then enter T&R final display ops in mid-April 2012. Her OMS Pods and FRCS pod would be returned from WSTF in May 2012 with reinstallation occurring in mid-June 2012.

T&R specific operations at Endeavour’s display site would begin in July 2012 with Endeavour being ready for ferry (if KSC is not in fact her display site) in August. Should Endeavour not remain at Kennedy, the earliest she could be ready for departure from Kennedy is mid-August 2012.

Under timeline option #1 all T&R operations, including decontamination of Hyper valve box components, facility fluid systems decommissioning and removal from the OPFs, and final Hypergolic Maintenance Facility safing would be completed by mid-June 2013 – officially ending Space Shuttle Program Orbiter operations at the Kennedy Space Center.

However, there is second potential timeline for post-flight safing/decommissioning/final display ops. Following the course of the OPO recommended Option #2 for Discovery, the limited early start on deservicing of Discovery’s OMS Pods and FRCS pod would greatly reduce the amount of post-final flight time each Orbiter would spend at the Kennedy Space Center.

Under timeline option #2, Discovery would undergo post-flight SSP safing from mid-November through mid-December 2010. Immediately, preparations would begin to remove Discovery’s OMS Pods and FRCS pod – an event which would then occur in mid-January 2011 on the order of four months sooner than timeline #1.

Discovery would then enter T&R safing in mid-February 2011, with final OV-103 power down marking the end of T&R safing in mid-June 2011. Discovery would then spend only two months in the T&R limited activity: integrated resource management period before entering T&R final display ops in August 2011.

Discovery’s OMS Pods and FRCS pod would also be returned from the WSTF in August and reinstalled in mid-September.

Discovery would then enter the final T&R Display Site Ops phase in October 2011 and be ready for ferry to the Smithsonian in November. Based on this schedule, the earliest Discovery could depart KSC for final display would be mid-November 2011 – four months earlier than timeline #1.

Timeline #2 for Atlantis would also see an accelerated decommissioning phase – though not as drastic as Discovery’s.

Under timeline #2, Atlantis would undergo post-flight SSP safing from mid-March to May 2011 following her release from STS-335 duties. T&R safing would begin in May, with OMS Pods and FRCS pod removal occurring in the middle of that month.

T&R safing would be completed by early July 2011 with a five and a half month long T&R limited activity: integrated resource management period following. Under this timeline, Atlantis would be powered down for the final time in September 2011 and her OMS Pods and FRCS pod would be returned from the WSTF in mid-December 2011.

Mid-December 2011 would also mark the beginning of T&R final display ops for Atlantis. Her OMS Pods and FRCS pod would be reinstalled at the beginning of February 2012.

In mid-February, specific work at Atlantis’s display site would begin – with Atlantis ready for ferry ops in mid-March 2012. Under this timeline, Atlantis could leave KSC for final time No Earlier Than April 2012.

Finally, Endeavour would once again be the final Orbiter to complete decommissioning.

With timeline #2 Endeavour would be put through final SSP safing from mid-March 2011 to May 2011. T&R safing would then pick up in May and run through August 2011. Endeavour OMS Pods and FRCS pod would not be removed until August under this timeline.

Endeavour would then undergo five and a half months of T&R limited activity: integrated resource management, with her final power down occurring at the beginning of November 2011.

Endeavour would enter T&R final display ops in February 2012 with her OMS Pods and FRCS pod returned from the WSTF in the middle of the month. Reinstallation of the OMS Pods and FRCS pod would occur in April 2012 with final T&R display site ops running from May to June 2012.

Endeavour herself would be ready for display in mid-May. Again, if KSC is not in fact the display location for Endeavour, the earliest she could leave KSC would be mid-June 2012.

Finally, all Hyper valve box components decontamination, facility fluid system decommissioning and removal from the OPFs, and final HMF safing would be completed by April 2013, officially bringing an end to KSC SSP Orbiter operations.

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