Monday, September 14, 2009

Live At NASA: Discovery Prepped For Return To KSC

NASA aims to return the orbiter Discovery to Kennedy Space Center this coming weekend after completing preparations at Edwards Air Force Base for a cross-country ferry flight.

Discovery and seven astronauts landed on Runway 22 at the Mojave Desert military base on Friday after stormy weather at the shuttle's Space Coast homeport forced NASA to send the orbiter and its crew to the back-up landing site.

The orbiter was towed to the Mate-Demate Device at Edwards before the astronauts departed the base Saturday and returned to Johnson Space Center in Houston. The MDD is a tall gantry-like structure that is used to lift the orbiter so it can be bolted on top of a modified 747 carrier jet. About a week of work is required to safe the orbiter and prepare it for the flight back to KSC.

The majority of a team of about 150 people from KSC arrived at Edwards on Saturday and started servicing the shuttle on Sunday.

The orbiter's power-producing fuel cell system was secured and residual liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen reactants were drained from tanks. And the shuttle's three liquid-fueled main engines were dried.

Today technicians are inerting the fuel cell system and secure ordnance on the orbiter. The Orbital Maneuvering ball valve cavity is being drained of residual propellants -- a hazardous operation that requires workers to don Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensembles, also known as SCAPE suits.

NASA managers aim to have the shuttle and its 747 carrier aircraft ready to begin the cross-country return at sun-up on Saturday. Assuming good weather en route, the 747 and Discovery could be back on the Space Coast for a beach flyover around mid-day on Sunday.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the NASA images of Discovery and its crew at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The top shows the STS-128 crew in front of the Mate-Demate Device. From left to right are mission specialist Jose Hernandez, pilot Kevin Ford, mission specialist Christer Fuglesang of the European Space Agency, commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow, mission specialist Danny Olivas and mission specialist Pat Forrester. Not pictured in Tim Kopra, who returned from the International Space Station after almost two months in space. The second shows the shuttle on Runway 22 before the move to the gantry-like MDD. Photo credits: NASA/Jim Ross (crew photo) and Tony Landis.


Anonymous said...

Bring her home safe boys!

Bill said...

Todd; The readers might be interested in how the big tail fairing is transported from Kennedy back to Edwards. Is there a door large enough to get it inside the 747?


Anonymous said...

Think goodness, we have only six more blast into space left. then the program is over,then we can save that money and put it in Healthcare,lower taxes, and what ever needs it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and I have a glass of water you can use to solve the world's droughts, and anything else that needs it.

CharlieA said...

Bill (and Todd)-

Isn't the fairing dismantled, and carried inside the SCA?

James Dean said...

Bill and Charlie A: the tail cone will be disassembled into five pieces and trucked back across the country to Edwards.