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  Identifying flight history for shuttle hardware

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Author Topic:   Identifying flight history for shuttle hardware
Space Geek FL
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Posts: 20
From: Inverness, FL, USA
Registered: Oct 2011

posted 06-19-2012 08:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Geek FL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can someone please advise me on how to research a drawer I have from SPACEHAB with the part number on it? I am trying to find out some history on it and I don't know where to begin. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

Greggy_D
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Posts: 721
From: Michigan
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 06-19-2012 08:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You may want to start with an FOIA to JSC:
NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Houston, Texas 77058
Jessica Cordero, JSC FOIA Officer
Email: jsc-foia@mail.nasa.gov Tele: 281.483.8252 Fax: 281.483.4876
I personally dealt with Jessica last year and she was 100% helpful, professional, and right on top of my request.

Be warned, the FOIA fees (which are quoted up-front) could be substantial. My initial FOIA request clocked in at $2800 between research and legal fees until I reigned in the scope of my request.

Provide as much info as possible in your request (part numbers, serial numbers, etc). Pics also help. Good luck.

Spaceguy5
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Posts: 416
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-19-2012 08:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Funny, just today I had a JSC FOIA request closed (Mine was also being handled by Jessica). I was trying to find flight history and location of some space shuttle insulation blankets (mostly from the payload bay, with one which was likely from a Spacelab igloo and one which was definitely on a tunnel adapter). I provided photos and all the part numbers and serial numbers, but was told that I wasn't providing enough information and that they "cannot process a FOIA request for "some information" using partial ID tag numbers" (even though I included the full part numbers and serial numbers, as printed on my hardware, and specifically asked for scrap records (even naming a few form IDs from another blanket I have)?).

So, also be very careful with your wording.

Jim Behling
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Posts: 659
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 06-19-2012 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Space Geek FL:
Can someone please advise me on how to research a drawer I have from SPACEHAB with the part number on it? I am trying to find out some history on it and I don't know where to begin. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

NASA can't help because NASA doesn't have the data nor did they pay for it. Spacehab had a services contract with NASA and not flight hardware contract. Spacehab owned the hardware, and it was up to Spacehab to manage the hardware and this information was not required to be passed on to NASA. Spacehab didn't track missions flown on parts tags or runners, it was tracked in the ABCL (as built configuration list) for each flight.

With that said and the following isn't going to make you happy: I am 99.99% sure that locker tray (drawer) did not fly. I worked ground ops for 15 of the 17 Spacehab missions and was mostly involved with the mission stowage.

Here are the reasons why it was not flown.

We were efficient (lazy)

  1. We tended to reuse flown hardware instead of getting unused hardware out of stock.

  2. If we had more "flown" hardware than was needed for the next mission, it was returned to stock as is (meaning the previous flight labels were left on.)

  3. Many of the highly used trays and lockers were on Columbia, which greatly depleted the stock of flown hardware.

  4. Employees and some others (wink wink) had first crack of the to be excessed hardware at the conclusion of the program. They knew which items flew.

  5. I went to the Spacehab (going out of business) auction and I didn't see any flown trays or lockers. And there were over 100 trays. We never used more than 20 on a mission. Most lockers contained experiments or JSC provided trays and later missions used soft bags instead of lockers.

  6. Most of the engineering records were disposed of, since there was no reason or benefit to keep them.
The only way to tell if your tray had flown if there is a location and contents decal and then it may have been used for training.

Most of the other Spacehab hardware on eBay is not flown either. Just spares.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 416
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-19-2012 09:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about the small, round MLI covers such as this one? I bought one off eBay (which was originally from said auction), and it has a round indentation on the top surface (barely visible in the photo), which is the same size as one of the buttons which typically tie down blankets.

Obviously no way of tracking it (as it doesn't even have an ID number), although it looks like mine was tied down to something, whether in flight or otherwise.

Jim Behling
Member

Posts: 659
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 06-19-2012 10:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spaceguy5:
What about the small, round MLI covers...
Doubtful, most likely spares. What condition was the parts tag?

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 416
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-19-2012 11:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It only came with a photo copy of a material acceptance tag (dated Aug. 1995) which indicates that it was part of a lot of 41 MLI covers.

I'm very certain my other Spacehab equipment is from unflown spares, although this MLI cover makes me wonder because of the button-shaped indentation on the top. Two large flown-and-scrapped blankets I have which were part of a space shuttle tunnel adapter also have these same kind of indentations where the buttons held them down. One thing about beta cloth is that it's fairly easy to put permanent creases in it with the right kind of pressure.

ea757grrl
Member

Posts: 593
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 06-19-2012 11:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FOIA comes up every so often on this board, and it's time again for me to sound like a broken record.

As someone who teaches about FOIA as part of my work (and as someone with experience in using it), a FOIA request should be about your second or third stop when you seek information, and only after other means fail. The moment FOIA is invoked it begins a process that must be followed, per statute, hence the lengthy delays and tremendous fees.

FOIA is a useful tool - I've used it myself - but for an initial inquiry it's a little too much tool for the job. The best first step is an inquiry (not invoking FOIA, of course) to an appropriate person at NASA who would have worked with the item, or who would know the right place to direct the inquiry. That will probably require a little bit of homework, but you'd be amazed the stuff you can get with the right question to the right person, often at little or no cost and probably the same day.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 416
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-19-2012 11:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm considering trying to ask High Temp Insulation (manufacturer of a lot of the stuff I have) or seeing if some of my contacts at JSC (such as my aunt, or a few people I met through educational programs) can point me in the right place.

Jim Behling
Member

Posts: 659
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 06-20-2012 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
High Temp will have no idea or records. The records will eventually have to come from KSC since that is where the work was performed.

If the part traveler doesn't have the data an FOIA request like this is a waste of govt resources. It takes a lot time to research as flown configuration for each mission to look for a specific serial number of a certain part.

Jim Behling
Member

Posts: 659
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 06-20-2012 08:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spaceguy5:
...although this MLI cover makes me wonder because of the button-shaped indentation on the top. Two large flown-and-scrapped blankets I have which were part of a space shuttle tunnel adapter also have these same kind of indentations where the buttons held them down. One thing about beta cloth is that it's fairly easy to put permanent creases in it with the right kind of pressure.
Spacehab MLI was stored in cabinet with drawers with other MLI items stacked on each other.

Spaceguy5
Member

Posts: 416
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 06-20-2012 01:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The issue though is that I don't have a copy of the part traveler form for most of the stuff I have. At most, some have red non-conforming material tags, which mostly just mention the part number and serial number already on the blankets. I'm referring to space shuttle insulation (mainly payload bay blankets) which actually went on the Orbiter, not my Spacehab parts.

Also I wouldn't expect High-Temp Insulation to know the flight history (at most, just the composition of one blanket, which is a total mystery to me, and they might be able to help me with finding out where these parts were located if they still have drawings).

quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
Spacehab MLI was stored in cabinet with drawers with other MLI items stacked on each other.

If it was just stacked in drawers, then I don't understand where the button-shaped indentation would have come from, unless it was attached to hardware at some point in time with a holddown button (either for flight, testing/quality control, or some other reason). I guess we'll never know.

Shuttle Endeavour
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Posts: 202
From:
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 11-19-2013 02:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does the stamp "SCRAP" mean the hardware was flown?

Shuttle Endeavour
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Posts: 202
From:
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 12-04-2013 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was on Space1.com and it said that "SCRAP" means the item was flown, but I was wondering if it could also mean it was taken off in Orbiter Processing.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-04-2013 11:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure where on Historic Space Systems' website (space1.com) you're citing, but a search only resulted in this:
SCRAP stamps indicate it was not to be used again. Although not so documented, this piece is certainly flown.
If that is what you are referring to, then you've misread or misunderstood. The scrap stamp means exactly what it says: the item is not longer to be used. It does not indicate flight use status.

Shuttle Endeavour
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Posts: 202
From:
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 12-04-2013 11:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks. I probably misread it, but how do you know if an item is flown without the documentation?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-05-2013 12:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Shuttle Endeavour:
...but how do you know if an item is flown without the documentation?
You don't.

You can get comfortable with the idea that something flew based on condition and other circumstantial factors, but without some type of solid provenance you cannot definitely state that it flew.

Shuttle Endeavour
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Posts: 202
From:
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 12-05-2013 10:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Then how can I know for sure if the hardware is flown. How do the scrap tags differ from a probably flown item to a proven flown item?

Jim Behling
Member

Posts: 659
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 12-05-2013 10:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Shuttle Endeavour:
How do the scrap tags differ from a probably flown item to a proven flown item?
They don't. It is the traveler document or parts tag that does.

Shuttle Endeavour
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Posts: 202
From:
Registered: Aug 2013

posted 12-05-2013 10:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttle Endeavour   Click Here to Email Shuttle Endeavour     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the quick response. It comes with a red scrap tag and a yellow KSC form with part numbers and other numbers. How could I determine for sure if something is flown with this information?

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