Tuesday, November 27, 2007

STS-122 Flight Readiness Review on Friday...

space shuttle atlantis at the launch padEverything is going very smooth with Atlantis' STS-122 launch. No matter where I looked, I do not find any information on problems. So no news again means excellent news!

The flight readiness review, the final approval of the launch date, is scheduled for this Friday. As it looks, this is more a formal act than something that will bring up surprises (but of course, you never know...). To quote the NASA space shuttle home page:

NASA managers will hold a flight readiness review on Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center marking the next major milestone for mission STS-122.

NASA officials, space shuttle program managers, engineers and contractors will discuss the readiness of space shuttle Atlantis, the flight crew and payloads to determine if everything is set to proceed for launch. Managers will also select an official launch date at the end of the session. Launch is targeted for Dec. 6 on a mission to install the Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station.

A briefing following the meeting will include Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale, International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini and STS-122 Launch Director Doug Lyons.

The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television no earlier than 4 p.m. EST.

ISS solar array rotary joint (SRJ)The real question is probably not if and when Atlantis will launch. The most discussed question currently is if the STS-122 mission is extended to allow a focussed inspection of the SARJ ISS solar array rotary joint. Anomalies were detected prior to STS-120 and inspection during recent spacewalks staged from the international space station showed signs of abrasion. This is an unexpected, not yet understood and potentially serious problem - so it is receiving priority for obvious reasons.

The additional inspection spacewalk requires a two-day mission extension. Other than its sister ships Discovery and Endeavour, Atlantis is not equipped with the station to shuttle power transfer system (SSPT). Thus, Atlantis can not support missions as long as its sister ships. So a two-day mission extension requires fully stocked consumables and is something that probably is not very easily done.

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