STS-132 Payload has International Flair
Boeing's STS-132 payload flow manager, Eve Stavros, and NASA Mission Manager Robert Ashley, were stationed on console in Firing Room 2 of NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Control Center, watching with anticipation as space shuttle Atlantis soared into the sky from Launch Pad 39A.

Stavros and Boeing's Checkout Assembly and Payload Processing Services, or CAPPS, team were instrumental in helping to prepare the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1, or MRM-1, and an Integrated Cargo Carrier for delivery to the International Space Station. According to Stavros, planning and coordination to process the two major payloads began more than a year ago. Russian Antonov aircraft delivers MRM1

Image: At the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida workers prepare to offload the Russian-built MRM1 from an Antonov Ukranian/Russian aircraft. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
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"This was a unique situation that required CAPPS, NASA, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, or RSC Energia, from Russia, and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., or EADS Astrium, to work together to prepare the payloads for flight," Stavros said.

Ashley said another unique aspect of the mission is the fact that both of the primary payloads, the MRM-1 and the cargo carrier, were processed off-center for the most part.

"They arrived late in the flow to the Space Station Processing Facility, about five weeks before the scheduled launch, for transfer to the launch pad and final orbiter integration activities," Ashley said. "The processing team met or beat every schedule milestone despite the relatively small size of the NASA and Boeing CAPPS teams working the mission, and the communication and logistical challenges."

The MRM-1 and associated hardware were transported from Russia aboard an Antonov Russian aircraft and arrived at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility in December 2009. The payload and equipment were offloaded from the aircraft and transported to Astrotech's facility at Port Canaveral. Technician determines the weight and center of gravity of the Integrated Cargo Carrier

Image: A technician determines the weight and center of gravity of the Integrated Cargo Carrier Kennedy's Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods
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For the MRM-1, Boeing assisted with ground safety issues, provided critical operations training for RSC Energia workers and prepared for stand-alone environmental testing at the launch pad. Boeing also coordinated delivery and setup of ground support equipment at the launch pad for testing operations and served as the main interface with the shuttle team to ensure payload schedule compatibility.

Stavros drew on previous international experience from her work on life sciences payloads for the European Space Agency in the Netherlands.

"Working with RSC Energia was an exercise in international diplomacy," Stavros said. "Boeing CAPPS served as the main interface to Russian workers to ensure they understood Kennedy's practices, regulations and operations as they were preparing the MRM-1 for the mission."

The cargo carrier was processed by EADS Astrium workers, also at Astrotech's facility, for its second flight to the station. The carrier first flew on the STS-127 mission in July 2009.

Inside Kennedy's Space Station Processing Facility, CAPPS workers processed the Space to Ground Antenna, or SGANT, and assembled and performed electrical tests on the flight support equipment. They delivered the integrated assembly to EADS Astrium for installation on the cargo carrier. Technicians prepare to lift MRM-1 out of its transportation container

Image: Technicians prepare to lift the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1, or MRM-1, out of its transportation container in Kennedy's Space Station Processing Facility for its move to the payload canister and transportation to Launch Pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Gianni Woods
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Boeing workers also performed the hardware ready for flight process, and packaged and delivered six batteries to EADS Astrium.

Before Atlantis rolled from its orbiter processing facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building, CAPPS workers installed a Power Data Grapple Fixture on a sidewall carrier in the shuttle's payload bay. The grapple fixture will be transferred to the station for future use on the Zarya control module.

Stavros said the CAPPS team also performed their customary function of installing both payloads into the payload canister for delivery to the launch pad, followed by supporting installation into Atlantis' payload bay.

During the 12-day mission, Commander Ken Ham, Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers will attach the MRM-1 to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya control module. The module will increase Russian research capabilities with the addition of experiment workstations.

It also will serve as a docking port for Soyuz and Progress vehicles and provide additional space for cargo storage.

The Integrated Cargo Carrier will be temporarily removed from the payload bay and attached to the mobile base of the station's robotic arm to support the transfer of exterior cargo to the space station.

Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center