STS-133 completes hyper loading – Discovery may star in Transformers movie

by Chris Bergin

With the departmental Flight Readiness Reviews (FRRs) ongoing – leading up to the SSP (Space Shuttle Program) FRR set for next week – Discovery continues to enjoy a smooth pad flow, as the milestone of hyper loading (S0024) was completed on Saturday. The veteran orbiter is also enjoying a weekend at the movies, as filming of Transformers 3 picks up at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

STS-133 Pad Flow Latest:

With less than a month to the expected launch date, engineers at the pad have spent the last few days preparing Discovery for S0024 operations, which involves the loading of hypergolic fuel and oxider into her Reaction Control System (RCS) and Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS), along with the loading of all three Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) and the Hydraulic Power Units on the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs).

“OV-103 / SRB BI-144 / RSRM 112 / ET-137 (Pad-A): S0024, prelaunch propellant servicing, operations continue to progress well: HPU LH/RH (Left Hand/Right Hand) rock and tilt fill and pressurization is complete,” noted the NASA Test Director (NTD) report (L2) ahead of hyperloading.

“FRCS Oxidizer loading is complete. LOMS/ROMS Oxidizer load is complete. LRCS/RRCS Oxidizer load is complete. FRCS (Forward Reaction Control System)/LRCS/RRCS/LOMS/ROMS and all three APU’s fuel loading will be in work this morning. Pad clears started at 0600 Friday.”

The operation was slightly delayed when a small issue was reported with a Thermal Conditioning Unit (TCU) located in the Fuel Storage Building.

“The plan is to send SCAPE personnel to the pad stack to perform venting operations in parallel while engineering and techs get the paper/parts together for troubleshooting,” pre-empted the NTD. “We will not flow any liquid until troubleshooting is complete and the TCU functionality is restored.”

With the issue fixed, engineers completed S0024 operations by Saturday morning, allowing for the pad to reopen for other processing tasks – which include final work on the bolt problem suffered during T-0 umbilical installation in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) during mating operations.

The problem occurred when the TSM (Tail Service Mask) carrier plate foot impacted the smaller of the two bolts on the lower LH attach point. Engineers managed to drill the bolt free, prior to replacing it and ultimately allowing the STS-133 stack to safely rollout to the pad.

Upcoming for Discovery will be the opening of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) ahead of the arrival of the STS-133 payload, which is expected in the early hours of Wednesday.

“At Pad A, completed preps for hyper load, and got started into hyper load. Estimate completion there around noon on Saturday with all post-ops,” noted KSC Ground Operations (L2). “The payload is scheduled to come out to the pad on Wednesday, October 6 at 00:01 ET. Will be retracting RSS Tuesday morning in preparation for that activity.”

Earlier in the week, several lightning strikes were recorded out of the Pad via the numerous array of detection equipment. As per routine, the Engineering Review Board (ERB) checked the data and found no problems with the Pad or the vehicle.

“Five lightning strikes have been identified to be within 0.45nm of Pad A. S0018 operations are in work to collect data,” noted the NTD. “GLMS (part of the lightning data recording system) sensors did not indicate a lightning strike and DC utility outlet sensor limits were not violated. (Updated later with): The ERB cleared any concerns.”

Regardless, flashes and bangs of a different nature can be expected at the pad over the coming days, as movie crews film scenes for the Hollywood blockbuster Transformers 3, with Saturday processing information noting work to support filming should proceed as planned over this weekend.

Scenes are expected to be shot at Pad 39A on Wednesday – understood to be timed with Discovery being on show with the RSS retracted, meaning the Shuttle may gain herself some credits in the movie.

Hundreds of extras have received security clearance to be in the grounds of KSC during the filming, while Cape Canaveral sources noted Atlas and Delta resources will also be involved in some scenes. Director Michael Bay had previously filmed at KSC during the making of Armageddon – which involved scenes with Atlantis and Endeavour.
*Monday UPDATE: Payload to Pad and RSS retract delayed 24 hours*

Back in the real world, managers continue to work through the numerous departmental FRRs, with no major issues being noted in the lead up to next week’s SSP FRR at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) – which will take one to two days to complete.

“SSP FRR for STS-133 is next Wednesday, October 6. October 7 is the overflow day, if needed,” noted the Launch Integration Manager (L2). “Special topics; so far, inputs from four Elements have been received, all reporting no special topics.

“ET (LMSS/MAF) The Lockheed Martin Senior Management STS-133 review was last Friday. Received the thumbs-up to proceed with the STS-133 FRR process. ET (NASA/MSFC) Had their STS-133 Project FRR last Friday; in good shape and are ready to proceed. Have a couple other reviews at the Center. Ready for next week.

“Propulsion Systems Engineering & Integration (NASA/MSFC) Had a good STS-133 review on Monday, no major issues. There was an STS-133 Engineering Directorate Readiness Review with no issues, no dissenting opinions. The STS-133 Chief Engineer’s Review is next Tuesday.”

STS-133 Specific Articles:

Two of the larger departmental FRRs are held by the MOD (Mission Operations Directorate) and OPO (Orbiter Project Office) – with 30 presentations (all available on L2) created for the mission.

“Mission Operations (NASA/JSC) The MOD STS-133 FRR was last week; no major issues. Will give the latest status on the APM (Ascent Performance Margin), but not carrying any special topics. Orbiter (USA/JSC) Had a STS-133 FRR with OPO, and reported no special topics.”

Space Shuttle Program manager John Shannon also added that the date for the Agency FRR – which will set the launch date – is still being worked, after a scheduling conflict was noted with an International Space Station (ISS) meeting. The final FRR may be delayed to just a few days prior to the actual launch date.

Mr Shannon also used the opportunity to ask his teams to remain focused, as the pace picks back up after a relatively slow summer.

“We have done a good job of working the issues prior to FRR, but need to stay vigilant. We haven’t done this for a while, and have had a gap between missions. Let’s go back and make sure that we have covered all the issues and will not have any surprises,” noted Mr Shannon on the Shuttle Standup/Integration report (L2).

“The Agency FRR date will be decided immediately after the SSP FRR. We will look at how much we will carry forward to the Agency FRR. (Associate Administrator for Space Operations for NASA) Bill Gerstenmaier’s travel schedule will be finalized sometime next week, so those two things will come together and a right date will be picked for the Agency FRR.”

(Lead Photograph: Larry Sullivan, and MaxQ Entertainment)

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