It’s been a crazy couple days.
Wednesday, July 6: L-2 preps and meetings, followed by more meetings.
Thursday, July 7: L-1 preps and RSS Retract took place after dealing with the weather. After being delayed about two hours due to severe thunder and lightning, we were able to complete our final walk-down inspection and get ready for the weather protection and RSS to be removed from covering the orbiter. During retract we took a different view this time. We got clearance to “ride” the RSS as it retracted away from the orbiter. It was pretty cool.
Friday, July 8: It’s 7:09am on launch day. So far everything checks out and we are ready to launch. The only potential problem thus far is weather. It’s been raining, storming and there are huge dark clouds out. The ET is full of LOX and LH2. Tanking went smoothly and the FIT (Final Inspection Team) is just about finished their walk-down. The White Room crew is in place and they are waiting for the astronauts to join them. The astronauts are in the O & C (Operations and Check-out) Building putting on their orange ascent suits after receiving their last physicals. Discussions about weather are taking place as we approach the cut-off point for a 24 hour scrub…7:30am. After this point a scrub would result in the launch being delayed until Sunday.
The military helicopters are beginning their rounds overhead which means the astronauts will be entering the astrovan within a half hour. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 5: I spent the holiday weekend working at the KSC Visitor Complex. We had the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on display and were educating and hyping folks up for the next generation spacecraft. I met NASA staff from all over-Dryden, Langley, Johnson, Marshall and Glenn. Some folks were admin and public affairs, while others were part of the groups that designed and built the Vehicle on display or the Launch Abort System that the vehicle was bulit to test. The converstations and stories each person had were interesting. Besides meeting these folks, I had an opportunity to talk with the visitors and meet folks from all over the world. I think international guests outnumbered locals this weekend. It ws neat to see how many folks from other countries made their summer vacation for here and to see Atlantis launch. It was neat to see the excitement on the faces of kids through adults when they saw the next vehicle and when they were able to talk with folks about the Shuttle and the new capsule.
The official countdowm clock started earlier today. So far all looks good except the weather-60% chance of rain with a low cloud ceiling…not good. Who knows maybe the weather will pull a New Englander and be completely wrong.
Folks from all of the NASA centers and the contractors started arriving today. Lots of hugs, how are yous,handshakes, and meeting others. Besides all of this all day folks closely monitored and then stopped to listed to the Casey verdict. No lie every TV that I passed was changed from NASA TV to the local news station and not just females were watching. There were rooms full of men talking all about it. That’s what happens aroud here on L-3…Tomorrow will be different for sure.
Tuesday, July 5: 13:00- The STS-135 launch countdown has officially started!
The last two weeks have been crazy with launch preps. As of now we have thumbs up across the organization for Atlantis to launch next Friday, July 8 around 11:26am.
Let’s play some catch up:
Between work for WSU, work for NASA, class and homework I’ve been out straight. Most of the time I feel like I am working two full time jobs and going to school full time. I would not trade this opportunity for anything, it’s just a lot some days.
Day by day:
Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17: Two days of classes, reading, meetings and homework. And…ended the week with a visit with Endeavour. A co-worker and I got an external tour of Endeavour. We couldn’t go inside yet because there still was check-out from the mission that needed to take place. We could see the tile damage that was a concern after liftoff, the payload bay was open and we could see inside of it, and we got to watch as Engine 3 was removed from the Orbiter and brought to the SSME facility (Engine shop).
Saturday, June 18: Happy Birthday Pops!
I had the opportunity to have lunch and talk with Jack Lousma, a retired astronaut from Apollo/Skylab and Shuttle. What a neat guy. He shared stories from working with the original 7 Mercury astronauts through today’s crew. When asked to shared the difference between Apollo/Sky Lab and Shuttle has said, Sky Lab was his favorite. It’s where he learned to live in space. Shuttle and the ISS is like a camping trip.
Monday, June 20: I toured the Orion facility in the morning. It’s the old check out facility for the Apollo capsule. As I walked down the hall looking at the pictures that captured the layout and crew working I could feel the history around me. Once I stepped into the high bay I closed my eyes and could feel it all around me. Once I openned my eyes it was different though. The excitement was still in the air, but the bay was empty and rennovated. It’s ready for the Orion vehicle to arrive and for production to begin. Soon, the bay with be hopping with crew and activity, very soon. The afternoon incorporated a trip to the pad to complete a post weekend walkdown.
Tuesday, June 21: I spent the day, the entire day in the STS-135 FRR (Flight Readiness Review). It’s a teleconference with all involved groups (contractors and other NASA facilities). The meeting goes system by system through the entire vehicle to see where we are at for launch. Each system reviews issues from the last launch (STS 134 with Endeavour) and the last launch of Atlantis (STS-132) and how the systems look or were rectified for the upcoming launch. Any potential concerns and all open work is discussed. It was a great learning opportunity and a very long day (9 hours) or sitting, listening to people talk. At the end of the meeting the official date is set-July 8 was agreed on. After that ended…I moved to another building for class. My brain was fried by the end of the day.
Wednesday, June 22: Class, meetings and a pad walk down to review some repair work that was completed overnight. When we got to the pad, we had to wait a bit because the tank was under going x-rays to check the structural integrity of the stringers. While waiting, we had an opportunity to watch the Atlantis crew complete their final emergency escape training on the pad. Usually the pad is very quiet during this time but not for this training. The media was allowed to follow the crew around which created a three ring circus with cameras and people. We were a level above and just watched the whole event unfold as media elbowed for the best view.
Thursday, June 23: SOO17 occurred this morning. I was given a spot on the Integration Console. The purpose of this event is for the astronauts. It’s their day of launch run-through. They don their orange suits, get in the Astro Van and get loaded into the Orbiter. With systems on (but the tank empty), we go through all of the sequences we would on launch day. This one was a tad different than most others for a few reasons. Like their emergency training, there was a media crew allowed in the white room and more allowed on the pad. Also, NASA Fire and Emergency conducted an Orbiter fire drill which required the Fire Department to enter the Orbiter and remove the astronauts. The main reason this drill was completed was due to the seating arrangements and cargo storage for this mission. Typically the crew is a seven person crew with four in the cockpit and three on the middeck. The crew for STS-135 is only four people. All four will be in the cockpit and the middeck is being used for cargo.
Flew home Thursday afternoon for the weekend to see Taylor Swift with Kayla-her first concert. What a great time!
Monday, June 27: Kayla and I got back to New Hampshire after the concert around 2:30am. We cleaned out the car, Kayla went to bed and I packed my bags, showered and headed to Boston to catch my flight. I arrived on base around 11:30am and went to the pad for our post weekend walk down and then came back for class.
Tuesday, June 28: Joint FRR today. This is where all the folks from the FRR are now at KSC talking about issues and open work from the FRR. This was another all day affair, but in business dress. Suits in Florida should be against the law.
Wednesday, June 29: Brought a group of folks to the pad for a tour. It’s the last day the pad is sort-of open before launch, so there are a decent number of folks touring. It’s also the last time we’ll see this much GSE on the pad. By the end of the week it’ll be all gone.
Thursday, June 30: Back to the pad for a walkdown. It’s part of the daily routine from now through launch.
Friday, July 1: Class and final preps for launch are done. The pad is just about empty of workers, ground support equipment (GSE), and unfinished work. One week to go!
Monday, June 13: We did another pad walk down in preps for tanking on Wednesday. We had some weather over the weekend, so we are looking for any changes since Friday. I had the opportunity to come to the pad later and see some of the final preps to the Aft skirt (bottom) of the SRB. I’ve seen the SRB in storage, being built, after flight and now being prepped on the pad for launch. The boosters are so big that you would not know I was in there if you weren’t in there too. I was standing straight up and was completely engulfed by the skirt.
Tuesday, June 14: Was supposed to be a 18 hour shift but weather cut it short. It was over 100 degrees out and extremely humid. We had some visitors from MSFC and were asked to give them a tour of the pad. There were four guys, two current staff, two retired. One of the retired guys worked all the programs-Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, Sky Lab, and Shuttle. It was so cool talking with him and listening to his stories and experiences with the different programs. The two retired guys are part of the crew that started the post flight assessment of the SRBs. Pieces of the original program are still used today, but a lot has changed. These two were part of pioneers that got the Shuttle Program underway and they wanted to come back to KSC and see the last mission prep. After we finished touring them we began prep for RSS Rollback and the Tanking Test. I was part of the L-1 walkdown team and our walk was cut short because of lightening. We ended up going into a hold around 4pm. We finally called it a day at midnight. It was still storming and all of the work we were supposed to complete was delayed for the next shift. Got home and was in bed around 1am and had to get up and be back at 7am because of all of the weather delays.
Wednesday, June 15: 11:30pm and my day is just about finished. Today was a day of firsts for me. I sat on console in the Ice Castle (we monitor the ET for ice, cracks, etc) and I got to experience a real tanking and had actual responsibilities assigned to me. It’s neat hearing and seeing it all come together. After tanking it was time to drain the tank and go inspect the it. I was able to wear my monkey suit and be a part of the Post Tanking Inspection Team. Our job is to walk the entire pad from top to bottom and inspect the vehicle-primary focus is on the ET, then Orbiter, then SRBs, then MLP. We are looking to see how each piece responded and reacted to tanking and unloading. The RSS is rolled out and the Orbiter is exposed. The xenon lights are showcasing the vehicle and there was the most incredible just about full orange/red moon. About four hours after being in the monkey suit, I was able to strip it off. As fashionable as it is, I am very happy to be sitting in my sweaty t-shirt and shorts. What a neat experience. Based on the team leaders decision tonight, I have earned myself a spot on the Post Launch Inspection Team.
Heading home for a shower and bed…back at 7am.
Tuesday, June 7: I returned back to KSC from a long weekend in MA and NH just in time for class and catching up on the happenings from Friday and Monday. Then I played catch up on the books.
Wednesday, June 8: Spent the morning in a Cryo Simulation Certification Training. This is a training where the folks involved in the loading of the ET go through four hours of simulating loading the tank. The catch is the Sim director is throwing various issues at the crew and they have to problem solve it. Sitting on console with the group and hearing how they respond to the various problems was neat. Learning about the tanking prep through tours and reading and then seeing the actual process helped pull it together a bit more for me. The tanking test will show how much I really get. Fingers crossed.
Thursday, June 9: Spent some time with the Lead Crawler Tech. Although the entire system is incredible, the Crawler is so intriguing to me. I really think it’s a transformer (I looked for the hidden symbol, but had no luck). The person who took me through Crawler 1 has been there ”forever”. Crawler 1 was built for NASA and acquired in 1962. It is absolutely massive (alone it weighs 5.5 million pounds)! By far it is the simplest piece of equipment. Most is still original with modifications in the control room, the truck cabins, the balancing system, the glass, and the cleats. There are 4 engines 2 for DC power to move the Crawler-big old 16 cylinder diesel ALCO engines and 2 for AC power to run the onboard systems-8 cylinder diesel engines-Lots of power…to go a max of 2 MPH when empty. When the Crawler is carrying the vehicle it maxes out at .8 MPH. I could go on and on about it, but I won’t bore you anymore. Let’s just say it’s SWEET!
Friday, June 10: Went out to the pad for a walk down check before the weekend and in preparation of the upcoming tank test. I’m in still amazed every time I go out there. The RSS is retracted so you can only see bits and pieces of the Orbiter. Our main function is to inspect the tank, SRBs and engines looking for anything abnormal and take pictures of high stress areas and know ice areas during loading so we can compare are loading. Everything looks great from the structure with the naked eye. Once you start looking through the binoculars and get onto the RSS and platforms, you start seeing all the insects that have made the tank their home. It’s quite interesting and gross all at the same time.
Sunday, June 5, 2011:
It’s 27 minutes until June 6…the birth date of my oldest niece and goddaughter-Happy 12th Birthday Kayla! I love you.
This past week was a tad nutty. My last post was Tuesday…this turned into a 36 hour shift. Tuesday into Wednesday morning two milestones took place for the Shuttle Program. First, Atlanis was rolled out from the VAB to pad 39A for her last mission and the last mission of the program. Second, Endeavour returned from the International Space Station and completed her 25th and final mission.
The Rollout physically started after 8:30pm, but the hype and traffic around KSC started around 5pm. From the windows in the office suite, we were able to watch the continous flow of cars pile in.
I’ve seen the stack on the MLP up close before, but I haven’t seen it outside of the high bay or with the high bay doors open. It was an incredible sight. The Crawler (which to me looks like a huge transformer-autobot of course). There is a water truck that drives in front of the Crawler as she carries the MLP and Stack to pad 39A. The water truck sprays water all over the stones the Crawler is going to travel over (and crush) to decrease the kinetic energy and to reduce the number of rocks that get stuk in the tracks. The trip to the pad and securing the MLP takes about 8 hours. THe entire time the Crawler keeps the MLP and stack perfectly balanced. It is incredible to watch.
This is my first landing and I had no idea what to really expect so everyone in the office gave me advice. The common statement was be ready for the double sonic boom. Some folks said, go to the runway, some said find a dark parking lot, some said find a rooftop, others said stay in the office if it comes in on 33.
There are two runways at KSC for the Orbiter to land on, 33 and 15. Depending on the winds, depends on which one she comes in on. Endeavour was scheduled to ladn at 2:35am on Wednesday, June 1. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning it was absolutely beautiful out and there was virtually no wind. Unfortunately, this meant that the chosen runway was 15. If we had wind like we had been having over the holiday weekend, then she would have come in on 33, which meant she would have flown past the office windows. Now that she was coming in on 15, I had to come up with a new viewing plan. We took a break and went out to a semi dark parking lot. Over the intercom system you could hear Mission Control giving everyone a play-by-play and then all of a sudden I thought we were being attacked. No matter how much you expect or people tell you about the sonic booms, you cannot prepare for them. I jumped and looked around for what was coming next and then realized it was the Orbiter. The orbiter has no night lights on it, so you can not see it approaching. You can hear it though. We could hear her approaching and as she was landing, we could see the vertical stabilzer fly past us. Then it was back to work.
For Atlantis, I have already received approval to be at the runway for landing…fingers crossed it is daylight.
At break time I went home to feed Zozo girl, shower and change and then headed back in…offline for about 50 minutes. When I returned, I got to see Endeavour come down the roadway towards her hanger. It’s not everyday that you get to see a normal traffic road closed for a Orbiter to come down…it was pretty neat.
36 hours from start time (7am on Tuesday)…I’m headed home for some rest.
Thursday, June 2, I got a tour of Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) 3. This is the MLP supporting Atlantis out at the pad. My tour guide was the Cryo Engineer. I got to see the inside workings of machine, which dates back to Apollo. The MLP reminds me of what the inside of some older submarines may look like. Everything is metal. The entire unit can be pressurized and the doors are sealed all around with a lever latch in the middle of the door. The sound suppression (water) pipes run throughout the inside on the MLP. These pipes are large enough in diameter for me to just about stand straight up in. The outside of the MLP is pretty neat too. I was taken around the outside of the MLP and was taught all about the LOX and LH2 lines and able to see the cross over points. When you are looking at the vehicle out on the pad (like on launch day-ocean behind the vehicle) the left side of the vehicle is your left (closest to the pad structure). When looking at the entire layout of the pad, the LOX farm is on the left and the LH2 farm is on the right. On the MLP, it’s opposite-the LH2 loads on the left and the LOX loads on the right.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011:
I have spent the last two and half hours with Discovery in the OPF. I had an opportunity to see and be in every piece of her and talk with one of the lead engineers who has spent the last 21 years working with her and the rest of the crew and a lead electrian who has been working on Discovery for the past 25 years. The engineer now is charged with leading the decommishing team to prep the Orbiters for the museums. The electrician is currently removing all the pyros (over 100) from throughout the Orbiter. Amazing morning and extremely emotional.
Monday, May 30, 2011: Last week was a bit crazy. Each day I was with a different group learning something new.
Monday, May 23: Landed in Orlando around 4:25am after my flight from Boston was delayed by 4 plus hours. By the time I got off the plane and to my car it was 5am. I went home fed my girl, showered and went to work. The day was one of meetings, class, and getting appointments set up for the rest of the week. I sat in on a planning meeting with each area involved in prepping Atlantis for her July launch. It was two hours of listening to folks troubleshoot a schedule that worked for all aspects of the work that needs to be done in the next six weeks.
Tuesday, May 24: The morning was spent with the curator of the KSC Visitor Complex. We talked about ways he and the Complex could help me accomplish my project and how I can assist them with developing a couple of their programs. I’ll be spending some time each week over at the Center with them. Last week’s focus was the Lunabotics Competition. This is an annual competition for college students from the US and throughout the world. Each school builds a lunabot that can mine lunar regolith. There was a detailed set of criteria each school had to follow, along with not being able to test their lunabot in the regolith within the controlled environment of reduced gravity and controlled temperatures until they arrived at KSC. Talking with the teams, that was the most difficult part-not being able to test and modify ahead of time. The lunar simulant is extremely fine. Because it’s so dusty and an irritant, a full suit, goggles and a mask are needed by all who are in the Lunarena. There was a LCC set up for the teams to use when their lunabots were competing. Each team controlled their lunabot by remote control…and…in a different location, so they were controlling it by what they saw on video. The afternoon/evening was spent on the SRBs. I spent some time over at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with Endeavor’s SRBs. Being able to see the difference between a booster ready for flight vs. one that has was neat. Seeing the inconel hold down points that secured the SRBs to the Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) after the explosives have split each in half just seconds before launch was cool. Once all pieces are accounted for, each hold down is mounted as a set of book ends and given to each astronaut. Work on safing and disassembling the SRBs was just beginning and will take about six weeks to complete. This area is a secure facility, guarded by the Air Force and no cameras are allowed. Because the SRBs are still ‘live’ work happens from 3pm-3am. Another neat place we went was the Hangar that housed the original close out for the Mercury astronauts, the various space animals, and where President Kennedy stood in front to view the Mercury capsule.
Wednesday, May 25: I spent the morning out at the LOX, LH2 and hyperbolic farms learning about the systems and process for ET loading of the LOX and LH2 and Orbiter loading of the hyperbolics. The set up of the systems, the prep work and the process that is involved in getting ready to launch, along with the needed day-to-day maintenance because of the age of the farms and the environmental effects on the system is amazing and fairly dangerous. These farms were originally installed and used during the Apollo program. Wednesday afternoon/evening was spent over at the Visitor Complex at the Lunabotics Competition. It was neat to see how the teams were preparing for the actual competition to start Thursday. Every team had an opportunity to test run their lunabot at least once in the lunarena and make adjustments. The pit area closed at 5:30pm and teams could not access their lunabots after 5:30 until their assigned competition time, which was spread out over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I had an opportunity to talk with some of the teams (those that were prepped and ready to go. The variation in idea and approach was cool, the budgets for groups varied greatly, and the designs were very different.
Thursday, May 26: I had an incredible opportunity to be part of the STS-135 Simulation Certification Run. This is where all the folks who will sit on console for the Atlantis launch, go through a five hour simulation training of launch day scenarios. I sat in horseshoe 3 (with the Propulsion folks) , in firing room 1 with all the top folks. This was one of the neatest experiences to date.
Friday, May 27: This was a day of classes and meetings in preparation for next week’s activities: Landing of Endeavour and Rollout of Atlantis from the VAB to the Pad.