Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ferry flight could take off as early as Friday

Processing teams are working slightly ahead of schedule preparing shuttle Discovery for a cross-country return to Kennedy Space Center that could begin as early as Friday morning.

"We're aiming for it, and if the weather holds and if we don't run into technical glitches, it is possible we'll be out of here Friday morning," said Alan Brown a spokesman for NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Roughly 200 technicians, mostly from KSC, are working on Discovery, which landed Friday at Edwards because of poor weather in Florida.

Today's work is considered the most hazardous of the typically week-long effort to prepare for a ferry flight atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

Workers dressed in protective "SCAPE" suits (left) - Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensembles - to offload and purge residual fuels, oxidizers and hypergolic propellants from the orbiter.

By Thursday, teams hope to be affixing a five-piece tail cone around Discovery's main engines, and later to start mounting the orbiter to three attach points on the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

"There's over 1,000 different processes and tasks that they have to do, plus all the inspections to make sure it's done right," said Brown.

Work began in earnest Sunday afternoon.

Crews have already removed Flow Control Valves from the Main Propulsion System, repressurized and inerted three fuel cells, completed inspections of heat-shielding tiles and blankets and purged Orbital Maneuvering System fluid lines and valves.

All of the work is being done outdoors with Discovery hoisted in a gantry-like Mate/De-Mate Device.

Some operations, including attachment of the tail cone, could be delayed if high winds were to kick up.

But Brown said the forecast currently looks very good through the time of Discovery's anticipated departure.

The processing of preparing and ferrying a shuttle home from Edwards costs about $1.8 million. Brown provided the following rough breakdown of the costs:

++ $1.1 million to $1.2 million: transportation, overtime and meal costs for workforce performing ground processing, engineering, security and logistics.
++ $354,000: Transportation and travel related to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and pathfinder plane, including fuel and crews travelling with the aircraft.
++ $125,000: Civil service travel.
++ $140,000: Overhead costs for Dryden Flight Research Center.

IMAGE NOTE: The space shuttle Discovery is parked within the Mate-Demate Device gantry at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center prior to beginning turnaround processing for its ferry flight back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discoloration on Discovery’s reinforced carbon-carbon nose cap gives evidence of the extreme heating it encountered during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere prior to landing Sept. 11. NASA photo/Tony Landis. Below: On June 6, 2002, workers at Kennedy Space Center donned SCAPE (Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble) suits for the fueling of the Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) spacecraft in the Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility 2 (SAEF-2). Credit: NASA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you post information on where we can see the take off from Vandenberg please?