Thursday, May 19, 2011

Careful with that!!!!!!

Question: how to you get the orbiter onto here


from here?

Wednesday was the scheduled lift and mate day for Atlantis. Like any carefully planned event a small problem threw the whole thing behind. But when you're lifting a billion dollars of space shuttle 500' in the air, hurrying is the last thing you want to do.

First the shuttle is attached to a lift sling.

There are 4 points of attachment.

Then the cranes lift the orbiter to the vertical position. As luck would have it, it was not my turn to be in the VAB when this happened. However, later in the day I was allowed access.

While in the vertical position detailed images are taken of the heat shield to be compared to the ones taken after launch during the "backflip" maneuver. (This is being done right now for a couple dings on Endeavour.).

The rules:
-No electronic devices except cameras.
-If in doubt, ask!!
-Walk anywhere but do NOT go under the orbiter. Do not touch the Orbiter.



Later we were also taken up into level 5 and 16.

Before proceding to Level 16 we were given a briefing: On the right you will see 2 doors. Do not go in there for any reason, including evacuation. They ARE alarmed, you WILL be removed from the VAB, your badge WILL be taken, and you will not be allowed back.

Atlantis was then rotated 45 degrees. Legend has it that to pass their final test a pen was attached to the block and the crane operators were required to sign their name on a sheet of paper. I asked a current tech and he said it was true, but now they were given other tasks. Note the yellow line on the floor the orbiter is aligned with during the rotation. (this image was taken after the vehicle had been moved a few feet from the alignment zone.)

And slowly, the lift began.

Here's why the orbiter is turned 45 degrees: it has to fit through the gap from the "low bay" to the "high bay". This requirement actually determined the wingspan of the shuttle.

Then Atlantis was again rotated to line up with the stack. At this point an oscillation developed and any further lowering was delayed until it dampened out. An hour and something later it was still moving too much, so at 2100 we were sent home.

I want to extend my gratitude to the staff of the KSC Media Center. These have been a long couple weeks, but they went above and beyond what was required for them, pulling many long days.

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