Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shuttles stay warm, quiet for the holidays

You won't find open fires for roasting chestnuts inside Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, which now houses boosters holding more than two million pounds of solid rocket fuel.

But shuttle Endeavour has remained warm and cozy in High Bay 1 during the first few chilly days of central Florida winter.

Overnight temperatures dropping below 45 degrees for more than four hours triggered standard procedures to ensure the orbiter and other shuttle systems were heated adequately.

Air circulating through the crew cabin and various purge lines keep the vehicle's temperature near 70 degrees and relative humidity around 50 percent.

"We're trying to keep moisture from setting up in there," said George Diller, a KSC spokesman. "The intent is to keep all the critical systems warm and dry, as well as the inside of the ship itself."

Some of those critical systems include the main engines and thrusters at the orbiter's nose and tail.

Shuttle engineers can manage the air temperatures remotely from a firing room in the nearby Launch Control Center.

Additional procedures would be implemented across Launch Complex 39 if the temperature dipped below freezing.

Endeavour is targeting a 4:39 a.m. launch to the International Space Station on Super Bowl Sunday -- Feb. 7 -- to start the first mission of 2010.

Like Discovery and Atlantis in their hangars, Endeavour is powered down and its hatch closed for the holidays until work resumes Jan. 4.

"We've got Endeavour pretty well buttoned up," Diller said.

Today, some access platforms inside the 52-story assembly building are being retracted in preparation for the shuttle's planned Jan. 6 move to launch pad 39A.

The external tank that will help launch Discovery in March is expected to arrive by barge at the spaceport turning basin near Christmas day.

It will likely remain enclosed in the Pegasus barge until being offloaded Jan. 5.

IMAGE NOTE: In High Bay 1 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour hovers over the mobile launcher platform to which its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters are secured. Endeavour was attached to the tank to complete the shuttle stack. Launch is targeted for Feb. 7. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the shuttles are to be replaced, it should be with something more advanced. As it is, once they are gone we will not see anything so capable in the next 30 years.