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Payload and Launch Processing
 
2 June 2006
Discovery was powered up to support the prelaunch loading this week of hypergolic propellants into the forward and aft reaction control system and the orbital maneuvering system pods.

Fuel loading for the orbiter's auxiliary power units is scheduled for the weekend. Testing of the reaction jet driver - electrical control system for the reaction control system jets - was successfully completed.

The loading of hypergolic fuel into the solid rocket booster hydraulic power units is scheduled for next week. On Monday, the payload bay doors will be opened for payload testing and sensor installation in the Orbiter Boom Sensor System.

31 May 2006
Over the holiday weekend, technicians performed no significant processing work at the launch pad. Connections and leak checks of auxiliary power units No. 1, 2 and 3 are complete.

Thursday morning, workers will begin prelaunch propellant loading of the monomethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide for the forward reaction control system and the orbital maneuvering system pods. Reaction control system quick disconnect mates and interface leak checks were completed May 26.

Following payload installation into the payload bay last week, the payload bay and payload changeout room doors were closed on Friday.

26 May 2006
Technicians continue performing system testing on Space Shuttle Discovery while the vehicle is powered at Launch Pad 39B. Auxiliary power units No. 1 and 3 connections and leak checks were completed, with No. 2 in progress.

The orbiter payloads were installed in Discovery's payload bay on Wednesday. Discovery's payloads include the Italian-built logistics module Leonardo, which will carry food, clothing, spare parts and research equipment to the International Space Station. Other payloads include two cargo carriers which contain heat shield tile samples, a spare pump module and a replacement mobile transporter reel assembly.

24 May 2006
Space Shuttle Discovery remains at Launch Pad 39B, and technicians continue performing system testing while the vehicle is powered. The external tank camera test was successfully completed, and the lens cap has been reinstalled until launch.

Tuesday, the launch team conducted the flight readiness test of the space shuttle main engines, as well as the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen system leak checks. The test ensures the engine hydraulics are properly working.

Technicians also are preparing for the gaseous and liquid hydrogen and oxygen leak checks of the power reactant storage distribution system. The distribution system will be loaded with hydrogen and oxygen next week. The system provides the fuel for the forward reaction control system and the orbiter maneuvering system pods.

The orbiter payload bay doors were opened Tuesday in preparation for the payloads to be installed today. The team continues with other activities including the orbiter weather protection system's activation and the completion of validations of the sound suppression and Firex systems.

22 May 2006
Technicians performed a "hot fire" test of the auxiliary power units on Saturday to ensure they are properly functioning. Later that evening, the rotating service structure was moved back around the vehicle to protect it from potential damage and the elements while at the pad.

Today, the launch team at the pad began preparing for the flight readiness test of the space shuttle main engines. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen system leak checks are scheduled for this afternoon. The test will ensure the engine hydraulics are working properly.

The payload arrived at the pad last week. Technicians will open the payload bay doors on the orbiter this afternoon and the payload will be transferred into the payload bay on Tuesday.

19 May 2006
The Space Shuttle Discovery stands at its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The shuttle arrived at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday on top of a giant vehicle known as the crawler transporter.

The crawler transporter began carrying Discovery out of Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building at 12:45 p.m. Friday. The crawler's maximum speed during the 4.2-mile journey was less than 1 mph.

While at the pad, the shuttle will undergo final testing and hardware integration prior to launch, as well as a "hot fire" test of the auxiliary power units to ensure they are properly functioning. The rotating service structure then will be moved back around the vehicle to protect it from potential damage and the elements.

Another upcoming milestone is the terminal countdown demonstration test, set for June 12 through 15. This countdown dress rehearsal provides each shuttle crew with the opportunity to participate in various simulated countdown activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency evacuation training.

12 May 2006
Discovery was moved today from Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3 to the Vehicle Assembly Building, a major step toward a launch to the International Space Station. Technicians and crane operators began preparations to lift Discovery into the assembly building's High Bay 3 and attach the shuttle to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. After final integration, a crawler transporter is scheduled to carry Discovery to the launch pad May 19.

Discovery was scheduled to move Thursday, but a sheared left-hand jack screw on the lifting sling in the assembly building postponed the rollover until today. Both the right and left-hand screws were removed and replaced. The replacements were inspected, analyzed, proof loaded and installed on the sling.

The payloads that will launch aboard Discovery were loaded into the payload transportation canister this week and are scheduled to roll out to the launch pad on May 16. Discovery's payloads include the Italian-built logistics module, known as Leonardo, which will carry food, clothing, spare parts and research equipment to the station. Other payloads include two cargo carriers which contain heat shield tile samples, a spare pump module and a replacement mobile transporter reel assembly.

5 May 2006
Technicians continue final preparations on Discovery prior to its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The move is scheduled for May 12. Shuttle program managers will discuss readiness for the move and any final technical details during the Orbiter Rollover Review on May 8.

As a precautionary measure to provide protection from the tin whiskering phenomenon, a reaction jet driver was replaced in an avionics bay and successfully retested early this week. Whiskering is a phenomenon identified decades ago whereby certain metals, primarily tin, zinc and cadmium, develop pure metallic crystalline extrusions.

During retesting of the reaction jet driver replacement, an unrelated problem was discovered in the load control assembly in a line replacement unit box in the forward avionics bay. The remotely controlled assembly provides power to the reaction jet driver. Technicians have replaced the assembly and will retest the equipment over the weekend.

28 April 2006
Technicians continue closing out areas of Discovery before it is moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building on May 12. The payload bay doors were closed on Wednesday for the final time prior to flight.

Last week, technicians removed the space shuttle main engine in position No. 2 and replaced it with a new one. Engine leak checks were successfully completed on Tuesday. Interface verification tests were completed for sensors No. 1 and 2 on the new orbiter boom sensor system.

14 April 2006
Technicians continue closing out areas of Discovery prior to its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building, scheduled for May 12. The right and left payload bay doors were opened earlier in the week in preparation for reinstallation of the remote manipulator system, or "shuttle arm." The arm was transported from the lab in the Vehicle Assembly Building to the processing facility on Wednesday and installed in the vehicle today.

Friday program managers determined the space shuttle main engine in position No. 2 will need to be replaced due to the possibility of a crack in a solder joint in the controller. During the certification of similar controllers, engineers observed cracking after thermal testing of the units. The engine replacement has no impact on the overall processing schedule.

7 April 2006
Final area closeouts continue in preparation for Discovery's move to the Vehicle Assembly Building and then to the launch pad for its mission to the International Space Station. Technicians plan to power up Discovery on Saturday to support the aft area structural leak test and orbiter compartment positive pressure test.

Final cleaning operations of the environmental control and life support system bay continue in preparation for closeout prior to flight. Work continues on the nose and main landing gear prior to the final functional test.

31 March 2006
Final powered-up systems testing and area closeouts continue in preparation for Discovery's move to the Vehicle Assembly Building no earlier than May 12. Final closeouts on the shuttle's main engines continue with thermal protection system foaming operations around them. Engine configuration for rollover was performed Thursday, which was followed by platform removal and final inspections.

Work continues on the thermal protection system and thermal barriers for the nose landing gear. The landing gear functional test is set for next week. The lower section of the remote manipulator system, or shuttle arm, returned to Kennedy today following repairs by the vendor in Canada. Shuttle technicians inadvertently damaged the arm slightly March 4. The arm will be retested prior to reinstallation.

24 March 2006
Technicians continue to process Discovery and close out completed areas for its launch to the International Space Station. The seven-member STS-121 crew was at Kennedy on Monday for the station crew equipment interface test. This standard test provides the crew with hands-on experiences with equipment that will be used on orbit.

Final closeouts of the space shuttle main engines continue with thermal protection system foaming operations around the engines. Technicians removed and replaced windows No. 3 and 5. Work continues in the payload bay in preparation for reinstallation of the remote manipulator system, or shuttle arm. The repaired arm is scheduled to return to Kennedy from the vendor in Canada in early April.

17 March 2006
On Tuesday, Space Shuttle Program management announced Discovery's new launch planning window of July 1 to 19. This window provides the agency time to change the shuttle's external fuel tank engine cutoff sensors and to perform additional engineering analysis to ensure a safe flight for Discovery and its crew.

Discovery's damaged remote manipulator system (shuttle arm) was removed from the payload bay on Tuesday. The lower section of the arm is en route to Canada today, so repairs can begin on the damaged section.

Leak checks were successfully completed on all three space shuttle main engines, and thermal protection system foaming operations around the engines are under way. Removal and replacement of windows Number 3 and 5 have begun. Although the windows in the vehicle meet specification, the new ones have been tested to a higher pressure.

10 March 2006
Final closeouts continue on orbiter Discovery in preparation for its rollover from Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Leak checks of the liquid oxygen system on space shuttle main engines No. 2 and 3 were successfully completed.

On March 4, space shuttle technicians inside a work platform device, called a bridge bucket, accidentally bumped into Discovery's remote manipulator system, or shuttle arm. The bridge bucket was being used in the payload bay to clean up pieces of glass, following the accidental breaking of a heat lamp. That accident caused pieces of glass to fall into the payload bay. The initial inspections showed two indentations in the arm's outer bumper, a honeycombed structure made of epoxy and designed to protect the arm. One of the indentations is 0.115 inches deep and 1 inch long. The second indentation is 0.035 inches deep and half-an-inch long. Inspections of the forward indentation were completed Thursday night, and no issues were found. The second indentation will be inspected today.

3 March 2006
On Thursday, Space Shuttle Program management set a launch date of no earlier than May 10 for Discovery's launch to the International Space Station. Technicians continue preparing Discovery for its rollover from Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Work is under way to close out various areas of the vehicle for flight.

Following the installation of the space shuttle main engines, technicians have added a dome-mounted heat shield around each engine. The heat shields are composed of two, semicircle-shaped sections of heat shield tiles that surround the engines.

The external fuel tank for the STS-121 mission arrived by barge at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, five days after leaving the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The tank, designated ET-119, was towed into the Vehicle Assembly Building and on Thursday was lifted into a checkout area for final processing before being attached to the solid rocket boosters.

24 February 2006
The forward reaction control system was installed Monday. The control system provides the thrust for attitude (rotational) maneuvers (pitch, yaw and roll) and for small velocity changes along the orbiter axis.

Space shuttle main engines No. 2 and 3 were reinstalled in the vehicle last weekend and leak checks were successfully completed. Because the engines failed the previous leak checks, engineers evaluated the interface seals and decided to replace them with better fitting seals. Program management will continue its analysis to determine if these seals will fly, or if additional work will be needed prior to flight.

Analysis is under way to determine what effect, if any, a small metallic shard found in Discovery's 12-inch liquid oxygen feed line filter screen will have. Options include cleaning or replacing the screen or flying as is if analysis determines the shard is inconsequential. In the Vehicle Assembly Building, stacking of both solid rocket boosters is complete, and booster closeouts are under way.

The external fuel tank, designated ET-119, that will fly on the STS-121 mission is scheduled to leave the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans this weekend and be transported via barge to the Kennedy Space Center. It usually takes about five days to transport the tank.

10 February 2006
Thermal protection system blanket installation continues on the orbiter boom sensor system. The sensor package was installed Tuesday on the boom.

Engineers are analyzing information and hardware following failed leak checks of shuttle main engines number 2 and 3. The two are in the main engine processing facility for evaluations. The engines will be reinstalled in the vehicle when analysis is completed; tentatively set for early next week.

In the Vehicle Assembly Building, solid rocket booster stacking continues today; the left aft center segment is being lifted onto the stack on the mobile launcher platform. Right booster stacking is scheduled for mid-February completion; left booster by the end of the month.

3 February 2006
The forward reaction control system is scheduled to be delivered to the bay next week for installation into the vehicle. The control system provides the thrust for attitude (rotational) maneuvers (pitch, yaw and roll) and for small velocity changes along the orbiter axis.

Following shuttle main engine installation, leak checks were performed on the interfaces per standard procedure. Engines No. 2 and 3 did not pass the leak check. Those two engines were removed from the vehicle and were returned to the main engine processing facility for evaluations. Technicians in the engine facility will lap, or polish, the engine interfaces to remove any possible microscopic imperfections. Once completed, the engines will be reinstalled into the vehicle and leak checks repeated. The additional work will not impact the overall processing schedule.

In the Vehicle Assembly Building, solid rocket booster stacking was placed on hold until Monday due to an issue with the 325-ton crane controller. Booster stacking is scheduled to be complete on the right booster in mid-February and the left booster by the end of the month. At this time, the additional work will not impact the overall processing schedule.

6 January 2006
On Tuesday, the vehicle was powered up so technicians could open the payload bay doors and deploy the Ku-band antenna, putting the vehicle back into a processing configuration. Crew module leak checks were successfully performed.

Fuel cell No. 2 was removed and replaced on Thursday. The fuel cells are located under the forward portion of the payload bay. They make power for the orbiter by mixing hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. The fuel cells also create potable water for the crew.

Technicians continue to remove and replace gap fillers at a rate of about 100 per day. New installation procedures ensure the gap fillers stay in place and pose no hazard during re-entry to the atmosphere.

15 December 2005
The orbiter boom sensor system, the 50-foot device used to inspect the shuttle's heat shield, was installed in Discovery's payload bay on Wednesday. Adjustments of the mechanical release latches will follow in the next few weeks. Inspections of windows 9 and 10 are complete, with no anomalies reported. Wire inspections and chafe protection installation continue on the vehicle's steering jets used in space. The pull tests on the external fuel tank door latch were completed Tuesday.

Technicians continue to replace daily approximately 100 gap fillers in a main-priority area. New installation procedures are being used to ensure the gap fillers stay in place and do not pose a hazard during the shuttle's re-entry to the atmosphere.

9 December 2005
Wire inspections and chafe protection installation continue on the reaction jet driver. The nose landing gear was cycled Thursday to support tile work on the shuttle's heat shield.

The Orbiter Boom Sensor System is in the transfer aisle of the processing facility awaiting installation. The boom installation was moved to next week to allow for final work on the pedestals and latches.

Technicians are removing and replacing approximately 100 gap fillers daily in a main priority area. This work is being performed due to two gap fillers that were protruding from the underside of Discovery during the last mission, STS-114. New installation procedures are being developed to ensure gap fillers stay in place and do not pose any hazard during the shuttle's re-entry to the atmosphere.

Engineers are evaluating data from two catch bottles that indicated higher levels of oxygen than expected in the shuttle's aft compartment during the last mission. Six bottles automatically capture samples for two seconds in pairs at precise times after launch and through the first two minutes of flight.

The higher readings have been categorized as a formal in-flight anomaly, but they could be an analysis mistake. During Discovery's launch, all three main engines performed normally, which indicated there wasn't a significant oxygen leak in the aft compartment. Engine performance and the catch bottles are the only way to detect in-flight leaks.

2 December 2005
Powered-up system testing and drag chute door installation continue. Once the cure on the door is complete, it will be opened to verify proper cure, and the flight pins will be installed.

The orbiter boom sensor system is in the transfer aisle of the processing facility awaiting installation. Final work will be completed soon on the manipulator positioning mechanism, the pedestals that hold the boom in place in the payload bay, and the boom will be installed next week.

22 November 2005
Powered-up system testing continues. The processing facility was cleared over the weekend for waterproofing of the payload bay door hingeline.

Thermography of the wing leading edge Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panels is complete. Thermography is the non-destructive technique put in place following the Columbia accident to search for microscopic flaws in the panels. These post-flight inspections have identified two areas that will be repaired prior to the next flight.

10 November 2005
Post-flight window inspections were performed on flight deck windows No. 2 and 3 on Monday.

The remote manipulator system, or space shuttle arm, that was removed from orbiter Atlantis was transferred to the processing facility Tuesday. Preparations are under way for installation of the arm scheduled for today. The arms were switched because the arm that was installed on Atlantis has special instrumentation to gather loads data from the STS-121 mission.

4 November 2005
Main landing gear wheel and tire assembly and installation are complete. Pyrotechnic connection completed this week, and the drag chute installed. Water spray boilers No. 1 and 3 were serviced and are both undergoing a 24-hour decay check.

28 October 2005
Hinge installation for the right-hand payload bay door is complete. The door was closed and opened Thursday to support inspections of the radiator retract mechanism. Right-hand door inspections continue today.

The forward reaction control system was removed on Wednesday. The system will be sent back to the Hypergol Maintenance Facility at Kennedy for work and inspections prior to returning to the bay for reinstallation on the vehicle.

7 October 2005
Thermography and eddy current inspections continue on the 22 right-hand wing reinforced carbon-carbon panels.

The vehicle is scheduled to power up today to support fuel-cell coolant loop verification, water-spray boiler servicing and the port-side manipulator positioning mechanisms pedestal rigging. Ultrasound and eddy current inspections of the three main propulsion system flow liners are complete. These inspections will ensure no microscopic cracks were formed during the STS-114 launch and mission.

3 October 2005
Post-flight window inspections continue. Thermography and eddy current inspections are complete on the left-hand reinforced carbon-carbon panels, with eddy current work continuing on the right-hand wing.

Following removal of the main engines, technicians began eddy current and ultrasonic inspections of the flow liners. The inspections ensure no microscopic cracks are present in the line that carries liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the external tank to the main engines during launch. Auxiliary power unit leak and functional checks continue.

External Tank 119, the third redesigned shuttle fuel tank, arrived at the NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans Sunday for modification. Workers will off-load it today and begin limited testing. The external tank team will determine the necessary work prior to the next flight. During the last review, managers discussed plans to remove and replace protuberance air load ramps.

2 September 2005
The plugs installed in the Orbiter Maneuvering System and the Forward Reaction Control System for the ferry flight from California were removed. Preparations to remove the three space shuttle main engines from Discovery continue, with engine removal to begin late next week.

The Orbiter Boom Sensor System is currently scheduled to be removed from the payload bay early next week following the holiday weekend. Technicians have begun thermography of the 22 Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panels on each wing leading edge. Thermography is a procedure that uses high intensity light to heat areas that are immediately scanned with an infrared camera.

26 August 2005
Following Discovery's return from Edwards Air Force Base in California atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on Sunday, the vehicle was rolled into Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 to begin its processing for the second space shuttle Return to Flight test mission, STS-121.

The orbiter was placed on its jacks and work stands were installed around the vehicle. Obiter window inspections are complete and protective covers installed. The payload bay doors were opened on Wednesday.

 
 
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center