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  Mission Chronicles :: Pre-Launch

Mission Updates
Mission Chronicles
Where Is Hubble Now?

A more informal perspective - members of the Hubble Project give their reactions and thoughts about Hubble and the SM3B mission.

Skip to any page in the chronology of events.
Pre-Launch Flight Day   1-4   5-6   7-8   9-12 Post-Landing

. 24, 2002
Dr. Edward Cheung (Jackson & Tull)
HST Principal Engineer
Inside Columbia's Bay

Columbia with riggingIt is finally launch week. With only a few more days to go, our hardware along with their carriers has been installed into the Orbiter. Most of the components in the Bay need little attention except for some minor work.

Access to our hardware while it is installed in the Orbiter occurs via the Payload Changeout Room (PCR). One whole side of this room is taken up by the Cargo Bay and the two large open doors that cover it. Using multi-level platforms, we can gain close access for final preparations.

It is quite an awesome sight to see all the hardware that the team has been working on all these years. Looking at all the widgets and enclosures on the carriers shows the great attention to detail our team has paid to all the hardware that will be needed during the mission. It has come as a result of close work among ourselves, and with the astronaut crew. There is a great deal of excitement among our team members, as we know that the big payoff is around the corner. It will be great to know you had a small part in making HST better and more powerful.

Columbia's bayAt the top of the PCR is the front of the orbiter. Going there one can see the egress hatch the crew will use to exit the orbiter and perform their space walks. If you then go down one level, you can see the front most carrier, called the Rigid Array Carrier (RAC), which holds the new Solar Arrays. I have designed most of the circuitry inside the Diode Box Controller that is part of that system. It is also at this level that you can see the attachment point of the Shuttle robot arm (RMS). It will be used during the mission to gently pluck HST out of its orbit.

The next level down is the SAC, which is the carrier for the ACS instrument, and the NCC. I have worked on that cooler since 1997, and am proud to finally see it ready for flight.

The next carrier down is the FSS, which has hardware to hold and park HST during the mission. Three clamps (called down-locks), grab and lock down the Telescope after the robot arm pulls it down into the bay. The FSS is the only carrier with motors, some of which rotate and pivot HST so the crew has easy access to all parts. The FSS is also the only carrier on which I have no flight hardware.

Finally, at the bottom of the room, and the back of the orbiter is the MULE carrier (yep that is its name), which holds the NCC radiator, the NCC computer (ESM), and the Reaction Wheel Assembly. The radiator prominently shows a recent addition, called the ARUBA (ASCS/NCS Relay Unit Breaker Assembly). I named it after my country of origin to stimulate interest in this mission among people from my country of birth. This has had its desired effect, and interest from Aruba has been extremely high. A small group of three reporters from the island will be viewing the launch with us.

More from Ed at:
Click here for more pictures inside Columbia's bay...

Feb. 24, 2002
Dr. Edward Cheung (Jackson & Tull)
HST Principal Engineer
Bad Weather and High Wire Work

Scaffolding high upSince our arrival in Florida, the weather has been excellent. This all turned sour yesterday when we had very strong winds and rain. The wind was so heavy that some reported the top of the External Tank swaying by an inch. The platforms in the Payload Changeout Room (PCR) were also moving, and we could see motion with respect to the Orbiter. The Orbiter and PCR are not rigidly attached to each other, and the gaps is closed by inflating seals to keep the elements out. Some water did seep in, and dripped down the Orbiter doors. As I write this, a high crew is climbing along the scaffolding to wipe off the residue.

Walking in the high winds was very difficult, especially outside the, where one is exposed to the elements. I have a dreadful fear of heights, and my co-workers often kid me about walking outside. The levels are built from steel grating, allowing clear vision down to the ground. I feel like I am walking in mid-air, and can plummet to the ground 135 feet below at any time when I need to make that 'death walk' back to the elevator.

Today (Sunday) will be the last day that we staff the vacuum pumps. We disconnect tonight, and the multi-level platform, called the PGHM (or "pig'm") will be slowly rolled back and away from the Orbiter. At that point, we will have the first opportunity to see the whole Orbiter bay in its full glory. I intend to take plenty of pictures for that.

Then the Orbiter and PCR doors are closed, and the entire structure holding the PCR will be rolled away, revealing the Shuttle for full view again for the first time in weeks. I expect that to occur on Tuesday. We then tank on Wednesday, and launch on Thursday. A last minute problem can still cause a hold-up, and a 'go' from the tanking meeting on Wednesday will be the clearest indication all is proceeding well. I can't wait.

More from Ed:
Click here for more pictures of Columbia at the launch pad...

Feb. 16, 2002
Dr. Edward Cheung (Jackson & Tull)
HST Principal Engineer
Hubble Payload -> Orbiter Columbia

Ed & ColumbiaAfter our hardware undergoes final processing at the Vertical Processing Facility, it is packaged for the trip to the Orbiter.  This occurs with a container called the 'Canister'.  This vehicle is the same size as the Orbiter, and even has two arched doors, that are similar to the pair of arched Orbiter doors.  The Canister is driven into the VPF clean room, and parked along side our carriers, which hold the hardware that will fly into space.  The carriers are transferred into the Canister one at a time, in the precise spacing that they will have in the Orbiter. 

After that, the doors are closed, and the Canister is driven out of the VPF to the Canister Rotation Facility.  In this facility, the Canister is rotated from a horizontal position to a vertical position using cranes.  This matches the orientation of the Orbiter on the pad. 

A little known aspect of the Shuttle Launch Pad is the Rotating Service Structure (RSS).  It is essentially a huge rotating scaffolding that covers the orbiter for servicing and protection against the weather.  Once the RSS is rotated over the Shuttle, a large clean room covers the Orbiter Payload Bay, called the Payload Changeout Room (PCR).  The PCR allows free access to the Orbiter Bay to prepare it for the mission.

Shuttle at PadAfter rotation, the Canister is driven to the launch pad.  With the RSS rotated back away from the Shuttle, the Canister is lifted and fastened in place in front of the PCR.  The doors of the PCR and the Canister are opened, revealing our hardware to the interior of the PCR.  When standing in the PCR, the view is just like you were looking at our hardware sitting in the Shuttle. 

A massive structure called the Payload Ground Handling Mechanism (nick-named the "pig-em") moves forward, grabs the carriers, and pulls them out of the Canister into the PCR. The Canister is then lowered and removed, and the RSS is rotated to  cover the Shuttle.  The PCR doors and the Orbiter doors are then opened, and the pig-em rolls forward to insert our carriers into the Orbiter.

We then do our final electrical and mechanical hook-ups and final end-to-end tests before launch.

More from Ed at the launch pad:
Click here for more pictures of the payload transfer at the launch pad...

Jan. 31, 2002
Dr. Edward Cheung (Jackson & Tull)
HST Principal Engineer
Visit to the VAB

Ed in front of VABI was present at the Kennedy Space Center when the orbiter Columbia was scheduled to roll out to the launch pad. A group of us decided to go over to the VAB to see the orbiter being prepared for the event. This is a short account of the visit.

South of the two shuttle launch pads at KSC is one of the world's largest buildings, known as the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). It was built in the Apollo days to accommodate the enormous Saturn V rocket, but has been retrofitted for the Shuttle program. The Shuttle is assembled in the VAB from its constituent parts (External Tank, Solid Rocket Booster, and the Orbiter).

It is difficult to tell how large the VAB is when you drive up to it, as there is nothing nearby for comparison. A portion of the side of the building is painted with a huge American Flag. It boggles the mind to know that the flag is so big that the road you arrive on is about as wide as one of the red stripes on the flag. The height of the building is about 525 feet!

As you enter the VAB's central hallway and look up, you realize how large an expanse this building is. A building of this size sometimes has some odd aspects. For example, I have been inside the VAB on a bright summer day, and see it "rain" inside the VAB. Water vapor condenses on the inside of the roof, and rains back down on humid days. One year, I was in the VAB with Atlantis parked in one of the bays, and they had to suspend a huge tarp over the Orbiter to protect it from the moisture raining down.

Ed & Co. in front of rockets and tankLeaving out certain details of the security arrangement, one is required to check in at another station to get close to the Shuttle. There is a check of your clothing and the items you are carrying. To prevent any objects from accidentally falling on the Shuttle while you are walking overhead, anything that can come loose such as eye-glasses are required to be tethered. If you are wearing a watch, you are required to cover that with tape in case a part should fall off. If you are wearing a ring with a stone, that needs to be taped too, and no cell phones or pagers are allowed.

The Shuttle ColumbiaAfter going thru this gauntlet, you are finally able to take the elevator and see the Shuttle up close. It is difficult to describe how impressive this sight is. It is a thrill that always excites me, no matter how many times I come here. Many details become visible that are blurred when viewed on a TV screen. One can see the individual markings on the thermal tiles, and see their individual differences. You also realize that the entire tank, booster, and orbiter stack is essentially held to the launch pad by eight bolts, four on each Booster. After the main engines are lit, and the Boosters are fired, these bolts are blown apart, and the Shuttle accelerates upwards.

Columbia did not roll out to the pad that day, as there were problems with the steering mechanism. She would roll out the week after I visited. Going back two years, I was present for the rollout of the previous HST mission in 1999, a very impressive sight in itself. That, however, is a story for another day...

See more from Ed at:
Click here for more pictures of the shuttle and VAB...

Dec. 20, 2001
D.H. :: SM3B Site Webmaster
Enter the Hubble Project

nebula 2440Webmaster here - just thought I'd start these chronicles off with the launch of the website. I started working for NASA in the summer of 2000. So it's over a year later, and I realize how fortunate I am to be working on the Hubble Project.

To tell the truth, I had never been a real "space-guy" - more interested in Rembrandt's and Wyeth's than Armstrong's and John Glenn's. But I've come a long way. Hubble truly is one of NASA's crown jewels. Fantastic images, insights into the creation of the Universe, evidence suggesting the laws of physics being turned upside down - how can these things not spark a sense of wonder?

And now I get to witness my first shuttle launch in February. They tell me it's like nothing else - seven million pounds of rocket thrust to propel the shuttle into space. The ground will shake and the sky will scream. I wait with anticipation and a sense of wonder.
  Later Chronicles   


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