Fourth Servicing Mission to HST (SM4) Page II

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Preparing the Shuttle

The Space Shuttle mounted to the External Tank inside the VAB.
The view is up along the massive building.  At the top,
you can see the crane hook that picks the Shuttle up.
Photo by Michael Soluri.

This is Atlantis being rolled out of the VAB and onto Pad 39-A.
Photo by Michael Soluri.

View of the Orbiter access ramp and the white room at the Launch Pad.
Photo by Michael Soluri.

Meanwhile, our hardware has been loaded into the Canister, and arrives via security escort to the pad.  This container is the same size and mechanical arrangement as the Shuttle Cargo Bay.  Photo by Michael Soluri.

With Dave Gomme under the Shuttle Atlantis with the Aruban flag.  The structure on the left is the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) that covers and protects the Shuttle.  It also allows access to the Shuttle cargo bay.

In this image, we see the Canister being hoisted into the RSS and the Payload Changeout Room (PCR).  Our hardware and carriers are then transferred into the PCR, and then into the Shuttle.  Photo by Michael Soluri.

A close-up view of Atlantis shot by Kristie Bennett.  Note the yellow 'strongbacks' on the Cargo Bay.  They are used to keep the doors rigid during opening on the ground.

A very unusual aspect of our Shuttle mission is that a standby "rescue" shuttle will be needed to be ready when Atlantis is launched.  Only 18 times in history have there been two Shuttles on the pad, and only three of those times have both been clearly visible and not hidden by the protective Rotating Service Structure.  The morning of Sept 20, 2008 included one of these very rare occasion, and we visited Pad 39-A to see this sight.

The above photo shows the day when both Orbiters were on the pad and visible without the RSS covering them.  The photo below is the blow-up of the bottom section, where you can see Endeavour.  Note the rainbow in the background.

Full resolution of a portion of the above photograph.
Photo by Kelvin Garcia.

View of two Shuttles on their pad.
Links to articles in the press regarding this rare occasion:

In the hatch of Atlantis on Pad 39-A.  To enter the crew cabin, one must wear a
clean-room suit.  Note the name of the Orbiter on the hatch cover, and the logo
of the mission on the hatch bridge.

I was in the crew cabin to help run the Interface Verification Test and the End-to-End test.
This is where we power up the carriers and the Orbiter, and flow data all the way
through the space network to Johnson Space Center in Houston, and
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.  My role is to help operate the
Bit Sync Assembly, which is in the background (small box).

Sitting in the Commander's chair on the Flight Deck of the Atlantis while she is on Pad 39-A.  Since the Shuttle is vertical, my feet are pointed in the air, and I am lying down on the chair.  The previous time I had the priviledge of doing this was in Discovery.

A Big Delay and a New Assignment

On Sunday September 28, 2008, I was about to board a plane to return to KSC.  In the parking garage, my phone goes off, and I hear of the news about a major problem on HST.  My plans are diverted, and I am requested to assist at the STOCC (Space Telescope Operations Control Center) at GSFC.  It turned out that the main science data handling computer had gone down.  This means that we only had the backup left.  After just one day of thought, NASA management decided that it was insufficient to guarantee the years of useful science we ask from Hubble after SM-4, and the mission is delayed until at least February 2009.

So far, our launch had slipped from August 2008, to October 10, to October 14, and now to Spring of 2009.  During this slip, I join the effort to prepare a replacement unit for installation during this mission.

News links of this problem:
The Hubble project assembles a team of people to prepare the new Science Data Computer for installation by the astronaut crew. I join this team as the Electrical Lead for the new computer.

Inside the cleanroom at GSFC, working on the new Science Data Computer.  I am the one closest to the camera.  In the foreground, you can see the flight unit's board on an extender card.

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(c) 2009, Edward Cheung, all rights reserved.