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  Space Shuttles - Space Station
  Return to Flight Milestone: ET meets SRBs

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Author Topic:   Return to Flight Milestone: ET meets SRBs
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 03-01-2005 06:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

NASA Release

NASA is marking a major step in assembling the Space Shuttle for its Return to Flight mission. Monday, workers successfully "mated," or attached, the redesigned External Tank and twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). The fuel tank and booster rockets will help launch Space Shuttle Discovery on its mission to the International Space Station, currently targeted for May 15-June 3.

The Space Shuttle's External Tank was lifted by a giant crane and joined to the already assembled, or "stacked," boosters in the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Mating the tank with the boosters is another major step in readying the Space Shuttle system for flight.

Following integration and final checkout of the External Tank with the SRBs, orbiter Discovery will join its propulsion components in the VAB. Discovery will roll over from its hangar, the Orbiter Processing Facility, later this month to mark the completion of Return to Flight processing. The orbiter then will be attached to the stack in the VAB.

The External Tank will fly with several modifications, including two new forward bipod heaters at the forward attach fittings that connect the tank to the orbiter. NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. spent nearly two years modifying the tank to make it safer.

During ET-SRB mating, the left and right boosters are bolted to the tank at both the forward, or top, and the aft, or tail, ends. At the forward end, a vertical bolt mechanism attaches each booster to the tank. On launch day, approximately two minutes after liftoff, the SRBs will separate from the ET when pyrotechnic devices fire to break the 25-inch, 62-pound steel bolts. One half of the bolt is caught in canister-like "bolt catchers" located on the tank; the other half remains with the boosters.

Discovery will also be the first flight with a modified bolt catcher, which was upgraded from a two-piece welded design to a one-piece, machine-made design. By eliminating the weld, the modified bolt catcher is structurally stronger than the original design.

Prior to orbiter Discovery joining the stack, final closeouts on the External Tank will include attaching the new bolt catcher and electrical cable connections, as well as installing an aerodynamic fairing and the bi-pod struts, which are the attach points for the nose of the orbiter to the tank.

The External Tank is the largest element of the Space Shuttle system, which also includes the orbiter, main engines and SRBs. It measures 27.6 feet wide and 154 feet tall. Despite the tank's size, the aluminum skin covering it is only an eighth of an inch thick in most areas. Yet it still withstands more than 6.5 million pounds of thrust during liftoff and ascent. The tank is the only Shuttle component that cannot be reused.

Photos of the External Tank mating operations. Additional photos will be added to that page as they are available.

[This message has been edited by Robert Pearlman (edited March 01, 2005).]

Moonpaws
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posted 03-01-2005 07:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Moonpaws   Click Here to Email Moonpaws     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it the lighting, or is the external tank yellow?

Choose2Go
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posted 03-01-2005 08:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Choose2Go   Click Here to Email Choose2Go     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The ET does have a decidedly yellow hue to it. It will darken a bit as it is exposed to the UV rays from the Sun. This was actually part of the Super Lightweight Tank design that debuted in 1998. Check out http://www.astronautix.com/stages/shuttank.htm for more info.

OV-105
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From: Ridgecrest, CA USA
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posted 03-01-2005 09:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it just me or is anyone else getting that felling that it is time to fly agian. It is starting to fell like 1988 again in some ways but the information comes a lot faster than having to wait for each months Coundown magazine.

HouseDadX4
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posted 03-02-2005 07:31 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't the wonderful world of the internet just awesome!!! As you said, in 1988 you had to wait for the information in a magazine. Now, thanx to technology, it's flowing a whole lot faster...

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-02-2005 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's really great to see the stacking going on- but the earliest launch attempt I would guess to be early to mid- June now, not May as planned.

DavidH
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From: Huntsville, AL, USA
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posted 03-02-2005 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What do you see the holdups as being?

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Ben
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posted 03-02-2005 01:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
E2M, the launch window closes June 3. So if it's not between May 15 and Jun 3 it will be July 12 to July 31.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-07-2005 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Guys- I see that the hold-ups will be the same as they were after Challenger- Integrating new plans and proceedures into the countdown and mission. Add the fact that we haven't done this in a couple of years and we have to refamiliarize the team (including new team members)and their may be the reasons.
I must admit that I don't know the reasons for the odd window, though- Is it just lighting and I.S.S. considerations?

Ben
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posted 03-07-2005 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, lighting. They want to have launch and ET separation in daylight (and still in daylight after ET sep so they can photograph it).

The entire launch team at KSC and JSC did a full scale dress rehearsal for launch day last week. There is another planned in April including fueling the ET. So I'm sure they will be ready to go!

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