Archive for July, 2005

Grounded

Well, the fleet is grounded, again. If they would just go back to using the not as environmentally safe foam on the external tank, we wouldn’t be having these problems. Just my opinion, though. Hopefully all the issues will be resolved quickly. Everything looks good for a safe return of Discovery in ten days, so that is good news. I wish I had additional insight to share, but I don’t.

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Thanks everyone!

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and encouragement for the launch. It has been a major ordeal to get back flying. I will say that I do not have any more information about what is going on with the mission now than what is on the news. NASA is very open with the media, and we often find out what is going on from the radio or TV before we hear it at work.

As far as the comments on my last post, I have no idea if there are UFOs or not, and the things that look like “clips” holding the wings are the tail service masts. They are actually not touching the wings at all, they are just right in front of them so it look like they are holding the wings.

It has been a long week already, and it is only Wednesday, so I am going to cut this post short. I promise I’ll post something fun tomorrow.

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We did it!

Click the photo below for a slideshow.

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Well, we finally launched. It was a beautiful sight, and you can see it in pictures and on TV, but the one thing you can not reproduce is the sound. It is delayed for quite a few seconds after launch, due to the distance, but then comes a rumbling like nothing you’ve ever heard. My favorite part is the crackling noise it makes a few seconds after the rumbling starts. You can even feel the noise in your body. They do the countdown and and announcements over the loudspeakers so anywhere on the space center you can hear it. We climbed up the ladders outside of one of our buildings where I work to get a better view. The slideshow above is made up of a couple of launch photos I took and the pictures Andy took at work last night after the Rotating Service Structure was rotated away from the shuttle, better exposing it.

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Godspeed Discovery

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Everyone please keep your fingers crossed for a successful launch today. Keep your eyes to the skies (or on TV). I think it is really going to go this time.

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The launch is scheduled to lift off at the same time as Columbia did over two and a half years ago, I hear. I have included these pictures of me in the crew compartment of Columbia taken the summer before it was destroyed.

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The International Space Station

I just came in from the backyard where I watched the International Space Station go by. Andy called me from work to let me know it would be passing our area. If you’ve never viewed it before, it looks like a bright star hauling ass across the sky. You can find out when the ISS will be visible in your area by clicking here and looking for the city closest to you. It will give the exact times and direction to look for the space station. It really is a neat thing to see it going overhead and to think that humans put it there. Kind of awe-inspiring. Check it out if you get a chance.

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It's a scrub

It is a scrub, so here are some pictures Andy took with my camera last night at work. I am going for a swim and will post more later.




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Launch Day, I hope

So far, so good. As of this morning we are still “go” for launch. Everybody keep their fingers crossed and pray that we will be able to go today. This will be an interesting launch for me because it has been two and a half years, but also because I have met this crew personally.

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Space Stuff

So, you may wonder why I haven’t mentioned much about the quickly approaching return to flight of the Space Shuttle, being as I am so closely involved with it. I guess it is just that it has been so long that I have a hard time believing that it is actually going to happen. The launch is supposed to be wednesday at 3:51 pm. It will really be great to see a sucessful mission after so long. I am posting a few pictures of some places around the space center that I have taken over the past couple of years. This is Atlantis, still stacked for launch just weeks after the Columbia accident. It was eventually de-stacked, an operation that is not often performed, and was returned to the Orbiter Processing Facility for modifications. It is currently almost ready for launch again and will be ready in case of any problems with the current mission.

This picture is of the Freedom Star, which is one of the boats that goes out to retrieve the spent solid rocket boosters and bring them back. They are then reworked and reused on another vehicle. I made a wrong turn on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station when I went over there to take a training class one night, and I ended up there, where the boats dock, and had to take a picture. The clouds in the sky were pretty interesting that day as well.

This is a photo of Hangar AF on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the very intersting and ominous clouds over it the day I went over there for training. The buildings over there are all small and old and funny looking in a retro sort of way. The buildings were used a lot in the space program in the early days of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

So, this is just a little taste of space to get everyone all fired up for the coming launch. I am excited about it, i just hate to get my hopes up too much and then have it delayed (it is always delayed). I can’t imagine how hard it must be for the astronauts and their families with the constant uncertainty of when they are going to launch. It drives me nuts and I am not even going into space.

When the orbiter gets back after a successful mission, it will travel
this tow-way back to the Processing facility with it’s nose wheel on the blue line. It has been a long time since any orbiter has traveled this tow-way. It will be accompanied by a whole entourage of people and equipment, making sure that everything is as it should be and carefully monitoring the path ahead for any debris that could harm the tires. It will be a long hot walk for many engineers and technicians on that day, with the only shade being the shade formed by the wings of the bird.

Okay, so everyone, be excited for America’s return to space. This is a big deal. I will provide photos of the event if I can. This is going to be a historic launch, and in a good way this time.

By the way, click on any picture for a larger view- at least it works for me!

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A very good question

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GlitterGlamGirl05 asked a very good question earlier, and I am going to answer it and talk about some related things in this post.

She wrote:I meant to ask you, when the shuttle lauches in July, will you be putting in lots of crazy hours to get things ready?

And the quick answer is no, my areas work towards this launch is complete, and things have actually slowed down for us. My husband Andy, on the other hand is having to work a lot of extra hours right now, due to the fact that his job is on the launch pad.

In shuttle processing there are two main groups, horizontal and vertical, or ground ops and launch ops. The ground ops group’s work is substantially complete by the time the stack rolls out to the pad, then the launch ops guys take over.

The parts of the vehicle that I currently work on are the OMS Pods and the FRCS. OMS stands for Orbital Manuevering System and consist of the two pods or bumps on the back of the orbiter- shown circled in red on the photo above. The FRCS is the Forward Reaction Control System and can be seen circled in the second picture. Both the pods and the FRCS are removed from the orbiters for maintenance and taken approximately five miles down the road to the facility where I work, the Hypergol Maintenance Facility, or HMF. The pods and FRCS contain thrusters for manuevering the orbiter in space, and a bunch of tanks filled with hypergols to fuel the thrusters. This is what allows the orbiter to do things such as position itself, dock with the space station and come out of orbit to return to earth. Fairly important stuff.
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Hypergols are chemicals that when combined will combust without oxygen. This is necessary because of the lack of oxygen in space. Due to the volatility of the hypergols, it is safer to work on the pods at a remote location, and that is what we do. So our work has to be completed well before the launch because the components we work on have to be delivered to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for installation well before the vehicle can roll out to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) and stacked vertically with the external tank (the orange thing) and the two solid rocket boosters.

Even when we do get busy, most of the time we can’t work too many hours because there are limits on that due to safety reasons. We do work some overtime (I think 60 hours is the limit; 40 hours of regular time plus 20 hours of overtime per week) but also most of the space center is a three shift operation with 24 hour coverage, especially when things get busy.
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This picture shows Atlantis, known to us as OV-104, with the FRCS removed. Anytime the FRCS or pods are moved it is a delicate operation due to the tanks full of hypergols, as they are extremely dangerous substances and if something was to go wrong there is the potential for spills or exposure so every move is carefully choreographed and takes quite a few people to carry out. I hope this clears things up and I am very glad that our super busy time is over. That way I get to enjoy the long weekend like everybody else, although poor Andy may have to work. He is there until 3:30 am tonight, and may be going in again tomorrow. Everyone has their turn, though, and it has been slow for them out at the pads for a long time after the Columbia accident.

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