Who Prepares Space Station Elements for Flight?
At Kennedy Space Center, hundreds of devoted people work every day to prepare future Space Station elements for flight. In some cases -- such as the reusable Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules Leonardo, Raffaello, and Donatello -- elements will return to the Space Station Processing Facility after landing, and the team will once again prepare them for their next mission.
Image to left: Workers in the Space Station Processing Facility attempt to open the hatch on the Italian-built Node 2.
A wide variety of jobs keep the team busy -- from maintaining mechanical support equipment or working directly on the hardware to coordinating testing and other activities.
Here is a small sampling of the jobs involved with preparing Space Station elements for flight.
Future Element Manager
The Future Element Manager coordinates the planning required to process an element at the launch site before it arrives at Kennedy. These elements are primarily internationally provided, so this position requires a solid understanding of all of the launch site processes and services, a strong commitment to customer satisfaction, and a good understanding of cultural differences both in the technical and social arenas.
Josie, Future Element Manager:
"Leading the Future Missions and International Partner's Division has been one of my most challenging, yet inspiring jobs ever. Doing business with technical communities from other countries, and understanding the cultural differences and how they may affect their processes, has been an exciting experience for me. It amazes me that despite the language, religious, and cultural differences, complex pieces of hardware and software can be designed and built around the world and be assembled together to operate as a functioning whole."
Image to right: In preparation for mission STS-112, the payload bay doors of Space Shuttle Atlantis close on the primary payloads: the S1 Integrated Truss Structure and the Crew and Equipment Translation Aid Cart A. Credit: NASA
Technical Integration Engineer
A Technical Integration Engineer's position involves extra vehicular activities (EVA) and intra vehicular activities (IVA), as well as Crew Systems. One example of the work required of a Technical Integration Engineer is to complete a rehearsal of upcoming EVAs and IVAs on the ground. This rehearsal is known as an On Orbit Constraints Test, and includes the astronaut crews.
Mike, Technical Integration Engineer:
"After spending sometimes years with the hardware, finally seeing it work on-orbit just gives me a warm feeling inside. There is no better job on the planet than working right on the flight hardware, and interacting with the astronauts that will perform the tasks on-orbit is a real shot in the arm."