Thursday, October 21, 2010

NASA Sure 'Miracle Workers' Can Pull Off Tricky Shuttle Repairs

NASA contractor technicians are preparing to start draining toxic rocket fuel from Discovery's Orbital Maneuvering System so leaky seals can be removed and replaced -- work deemed key to readying the shuttle for a planned Nov. 1 launch.

Discovery and six astronauts remain scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 4:40 p.m. Nov. 1, setting sail on a mission to deliver the final U.S. module to the International Space Station.

Launch countdown preparations are in work along with preparations to drain propellant from orbital maneuvering system tanks.

The tricky seal replacement work will be done by United Space Alliance technicians wearing SCAPE suits -- Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensembles -- protective equipment designed to prevent exposure to hazardous propellants. The suits weigh about 60 pounds are similar to those worn by people cleaning up hazardous material spills.

The plan is to drain the tanks and then putting a vacuum on them to draw out any residual propellant. Suspect Teflon-covered metal seals will be removed and replaced. The seals are located without crossfeed lines that enable propellant to be shifted between the two orbital maneuvering engines that straddled the shuttle's vertical stabilizer.

A small leak was detected in the line during routine launch preps last week and engineers still are trying to determine the root cause of the problem.

The set-up work for the operation is very involved, but engineers believe the seals can be removed and replaced by the end of the coming weekend.

"The team is working very hard now to set up all of the equipment to drain the tanks," NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon told reporters during a preflight briefing today. "I fully believe we'll get that back together this weekend and we'll be in good shape to go fly."

Shannon said engineers weighed whether the work should be done at the pad or back in the shuttle's processing hangar. Doing the work in the hangar would have required disassembly of the vehicle, which would caused a significant launch delay. Engineers ultimately decided technicians could pull off the work at the pad.

"The techs that work on the vehicles, they're miracle workers. and to me, I think they can do everything," Shannon said. "They guys just do an unbelievable professional job."

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the latest still images from live video feeds at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39. The image of the workers in the SCAPE suits is a NASA image.


Anonymous said...

Where did this term " blast off " begin? I think Col Shorty Powers always refered to it as a launch. Ccould we reduce some of the NASA dramatics and just get on w/the launch?

Graham(from england) said...

Well done to all people who worked to fix this.!!

Michael Spencer said...

Yes. Well done indeed.

And now go look for a job.

Where the hell is the outrage?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people in this picture will be laid off within the next few months?

Whatsamatteru said...

"I wonder how many people in this picture will be laid off within the next few months?"

Uh, the article says they are 'contractor' so all of them will be layed off.

L.W. said...

I assisted in the recovery of Discovery in 2003. I found the Hydrozine tank and was told that there was nothing to worry about. I was on the site for about 7 hours until we got sent back, I got immediately sick after that and everything has been swept under the carpet since, the mission never existed!! Since I have developed one mysterious illness after another and have been discharged from the Military after 17 yrs.
The next day there were guys there with 3 inch thick suit and oxygen tanks. (WMD) Weapon of Mass Destruction guys. They tested the site and the tanks, which had been on the ground for over a week, and found that it still had live chemicals inside of it. Funny, the NASA Engineers we had with us, told me, that it was safe, and they had us crawling all over it.
SO, as far as the guys that are going to do this, Hydrozine removal for NASA, wow, good luck, that is why they aren't doing it. And when they have things falling off their bodies or growing inside them or can't walk or in so much pain, don't expect NASA to be there for them.

Graham (from england) said...

Yes hydrazine is a very nasty sustance to come into contact with.! I should NOT happen full stop,as we say in england or as you say in the US period.!! It must be treated with respect, and so should the people who are asked to handle it ie they should have the correct gear to wear.