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  STS-61B: The case of the locked shuttle hatch

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Author Topic:   STS-61B: The case of the locked shuttle hatch
kyra
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posted 04-29-2006 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In "Riding Rockets" (p. 199), Mike Mullane tells the story of a commander that was made very uncomfortable by questions about the hatch opening mechanism and that subsequent missions were padlocked for crew safety.

I came across mention of this in the JSC Oral History project interview with Brewster Shaw. He mentions this arrangement with the padlock being implemented by him on the STS-61B mission with Payload Specialist Rodolfo Neri. (He didn't seem to notice, but the other full time astronauts did.) As the story goes it was locked during post-insertion and unlocked during deorbit prep.

Does anyone have a pic of this padlock? (I am a collector of locks and keys as well.) I presume it was a best series. What are the specs for an on-orbit padlock? Did they continue this practice on 61C, 51L (Mike Mullane said "commanders" plural)? Is reference to it made in the FDF?

This may be "the first cylinder lock" in space! Yuri Gagarin's panel was locked with a five-push button type mechanism - so it was not the first lock in general.

heng44
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posted 04-30-2006 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure if this STS-44 photo shows the hatch-lock...

kyra
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posted 04-30-2006 10:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It doesn't seem to be a lock. However the lock would go right where they put the pin with the red tag, as a safety item. I'm guessing this practice was discontinued after 51L since the practice of flying civilian types with less than a few months of training was no longer NASA policy. The payload specialists all became mission researchers that were integrated with the crew. Also with the redesign for quick escape on the pole, anything dealing with the hatch would be under scrutiny, even if the lock was not used during launch.

I could see it now. NASA management that were uninformed "They were padlocking the hatch!? Why?" NASA had to rethink the "civilian" issue because of the potential for PR nightmares if something should happen because of them - or to them.

OV-105
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posted 04-30-2006 05:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sure looks like a lot of "grey tape" at the top of the hatch.

WSTFphoto
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posted 05-02-2006 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WSTFphoto   Click Here to Email WSTFphoto     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The object in the STS-44 photo looks just like the red-anodized aluminum body "Lock Out/Tag Out" locks used throughout aerospace and many, many other industries.

kyra
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posted 05-02-2006 07:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the tip on this. Am I correct in understanding that in the instance of the STS-44 pic that the Lock Out/Tag Out device is being used as only a "Tag Out"?

In researching this topic more I have found that the STS-40 mission had a combination padlock on the hatch. The CDR Bryan O'Connor, Brewster Shaw's PLT on 61B!

Also there is also a case of STS-4 having a padlock on the mid-deck locker that had the DoD 82-1 info, so 61B would not be the first lock on a US space mission. Were lunar samples locked in flight?

WSTFphoto
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posted 05-03-2006 06:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for WSTFphoto   Click Here to Email WSTFphoto     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That LO/TO thing looks like an actual lock to me.

Greggy_D
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posted 03-16-2010 09:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kyra:
Is reference to it made in the FDF?
I always love when a buried part of history once rises again from the ashes, albeit nearly 25 years later.

I recently took possession of Woody Spring's flown STS-61B Entry Checklist Flight Data File (FDF). While perusing the checklist I found an extremely interesting and relevant entry on Page 3-9, which was performed by MS2 (Mary Cleave).

Remove and stow Side Hatch
UV Filter (not OV102) and
Locking Device
To my eyes, this is a direct reference to the padlock requested by CDR Brewster Shaw. This entry would indicate the padlock was indeed planned well in advance and incorporated within the Flight Data File (FDF).

I would love to hear the thoughts/opinions of fellow cS'rs. After receiving the Flown FDF, I had an interesting telephone conversation with Larry McGlynn. He best sums up this discovery with his statement, "That was worth the price of admission right there."

I could not agree more, Larry.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-17-2010 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let me know if I'm reading too much into this. The instructions read:
Remove and stow Side Hatch
UV Filter (not OV102) and
Locking Device
The (not OV102) seems peculiar since 61B was flown on Atlantis, which is OV-104. Is it possible, then, that this particular FDF page is common to all orbiters, and therefore a side hatch locking device was used on all Shuttles?

If so, it may be worth the time to go through all FDFs up to that point and see when those set of instructions first appeared.

Greggy_D
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posted 03-17-2010 11:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hart, I thought about that also. Remember, 1985 was a whirlwind era for the shuttle and its schedule. Assigned flights frequently had their payload manifest reassigned, as well as the designated shuttle for a particular flight number.

In reference to the "locking device", I think that was the point Shaw made with the padlock. There was no actual lock on the shuttle hatch. One simply had to pull up on a lever and rotate it. Since the hatch opened outwards, internal air pressure would have blown the door out.

Again, this is only my opinion and I thank you for your thoughts.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-17-2010 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One more thought: maybe the locking device really was for crew safety, and not for crazy astronauts. You mentioned that internal air pressure would have blown the door out; perhaps there was a lock to prevent just that happening accidentally, and damaging the orbiter, since the hatch is hinged.

kyra
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posted 03-17-2010 11:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hmmm, this page couldn't be reissued as a flight supplement given the general nature of the procedures. Notice that the checklist is Basic, Revision A, Page Change Notice 6.

A PCN was issued only when a few pages of a larger work change. Might they have done this for STS-61B?

The whole procedure with the locking device was technically the job of MS2.

Greggy_D
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posted 03-18-2010 07:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kyra:
The whole procedure with the locking device was technically the job of MS2.
Which then again begs the question... what locking device?

kr4mula
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posted 03-22-2010 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think I've said before that if I'd have known the lock was the subject of this much curiosity, I'd have followed up a little more closely during the interview. As it was, our brief conversation after the tape stopped lead me to believe the lock was akin to the commercially available sort, though he did not say where it came from (perhaps the drugstore, like John Glenn's camera?!) or if it used a combination or a key. Or for that matter, who could open it besides himself.

webhamster
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posted 03-23-2010 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webhamster   Click Here to Email webhamster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Brian O'Connor made comments in his oral history session alluding to the fact that he'd used a combination lock on STS-40. I also have a vague memory of reading at some point in the past that there was nothing special about either of them, just garden-variety locks that were purchased at a hardware store.

I think Shaw was probably motivated to do it by the fact that Neri was in and out of training all the time and there was a reported 'incident' from another flight earlier in 1985 that worried some of the crew (I think there's a thread about that somewhere around here too).

Greggy_D
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posted 05-10-2011 08:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
If so, it may be worth the time to go through all FDFs up to that point and see when those set of instructions first appeared.
During some downtime today while I'm in LA, I started catching up on remaining JSC Oral Histories I have not read yet. I came across an interesting quote from Hank Hartsfield:
Early on when we were flying payload specialists, we had one payload specialist that became obsessed with the hatch. "You mean all I got to do is turn that handle and the hatch opens and all the air goes out?" It was kind of scary. Why did he keep asking about that? It turned out it was innocent, but at the time you don't know. We had some discussions, so we began to lock the hatch. We carried a lock. Once we got on orbit, we locked it, because you're not going to open on orbit.
At some point maybe the lock was incorporated into all flights, thus the FDFs would reflect this at the Basic level. Regardless, this topic has become an enigma of all its own.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 05-10-2011 09:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Seems to me one avenue would be next time meeting a CDR or PLT (or even an MS) that flew on the shuttle pre-1988, ask, "Was the hatch locked, and if so, what kind of lock?"

(Considering I'm to meet such an astronaut next week, I'll have to print out this thread and ask 'em if I get the opportunity.)

Do that enough times, and it may outrank "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" as the most-asked question.

Greggy_D
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posted 05-13-2011 05:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I read John Fabian's Oral History today. Another quote about the lock, this time on 51G (which flew before 61B and 61A):

We put a lock on the door of the side hatch. It was installed when we got into orbit so that the door could not be opened from the inside and commit hari kari, kill the whole crew, that was not because of anybody we had on our flight but because of a concern about someone who had flown before 51-G. And just an indication, that NASA’s very selective in the people that it picks. They’re very careful about not just the selection process but also the training process and following up day to day to observe people.

hlbjr
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posted 05-14-2011 06:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hlbjr   Click Here to Email hlbjr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm intrigued to know who this guest was who apparently was a concern to the rest of their crew? Clearly something happened which caused others to think proactively about hatch safety. I did hear one story about a guest crewmember on a Shuttle mission who basically had a melt down emotionally which I'm sure wasn't appreciated by his fellow crewmembers.

capoetc
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posted 05-14-2011 06:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sounds to me like they may be attempting to prevent embarrassment for the person who melted down, since that person is very likely still alive. Just speculation on my part.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 05-14-2011 07:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The quote from Fabian about "someone who had flown before 51-G" is intriguing, and, if correct, dramatically narrows the candidates, given that payload specialists had only flown (in reverse order) on 51-B, 51-C (if you count Payton in that category), 41-G and 9.

To my mind, this changes the timeline of the alleged incident to earlier than otherwise may have been thought.

hoorenz
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posted 05-14-2011 08:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hoorenz   Click Here to Email hoorenz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
41D and 51D had payload specialists as well.

Greggy_D
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posted 05-14-2011 08:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From what I can recall, it was a PS from Overmyer's 51B flight.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 05-14-2011 10:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could it also be referring to a PS who was in training, not just one who made a flight? In that case, you could add STS-10 and STS-15/41E (the latter supposedly with a different PS than Payton), as well as STS-13/41C and STS-41H (supposedly an MSE was under consideration for those flights.)

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 05-14-2011 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by hoorenz:
41D and 51D had payload specialists as well.
I should have explained my reasoning: I had excluded 41-D and 51-D on the basis that a thrice-flown PS(Charlie Walker, the only person to have done so) is unlikely to have been the person involved.

If Walker had been the person involved on 41-D, he would hardly have been allowed back on 51-D and likewise for 61-B. So it isn't him (unless they needed him to run that CFES experiment really badly!!).

I excluded 41-D and 51-D merely to identify the category of "flown", as distinct from "in-training but unflown" Payload Specialists.

Like GreggyD, I have read the incident occurred on 51-B.

OV-105
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posted 05-14-2011 08:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll show my age. Go back and read the old Countdown Magazine on the STS-51B flight and you will be able to "contect the dots".

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 05-20-2011 11:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Didn't get a chance to ask my question, but one popped into my head: Is the shuttle hatch locked during re-entry? Or does the astronaut in charge of opening the hatch and deploying the bailout pole also and only remove the lock when needed?

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