PRCB Update: ET Folks Not Ready For Prime Time

Editor's note: Wayne Hale chaired the 17 November PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board). Some people were ready to make their presentations at this meeting. Others were not.

During the STS-115 Launch Site Flow Review presentation, the presenters wanted a decision, that day, to go ahead and implement a landing gear modification - one which will add 216 lbs to the orbiter's weight. Since STS-115 is already heavy, Wayne Hale wanted to know why a decision had to be made "today"? According to an attendee, it took a rather long time for the presenters to explain their position. More than once Hale said, "You're talking too fast. And not answering what I'm asking."

During a discussion of External Tank (ET) processing, Hale faced some frustrating responses (or lack thereof) from people who were supposed to be prepared - and present - during these high level weekly meetings.

In their presentation, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) proposed to take 6 days, using two 10-hour shifts, for ET processing. Hale asked KSC on why this was needed, noting at one point "I've always wondered why KSC needed the ET so early."

KSC replied that the ET avionics and electronics had to be checked out on arrival. Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) checks out the avionics and electronics before the ET is shipped and then KSC checks them again after the ET arrives and checks again after the ET is mated with the Orbiter. Hale commented that the same tests were "being done 3 times".

According to a knowledgeable source, the final straw for Hale when he asked KSC if they had consulted with Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on the ET processing schedule and requirements. Their answer was "no". They consulted with the Lockheed Martin Launch Site Support (LSS).

Then Hale asked participants on the telecon for MSFC's comments - a request, which was followed by silence. Hale then asked the ET representatives for comments - again, silence. Finally, he asked if anybody from Lockheed Martin at MAF was online. He finally got a response: "Yes, we're here". Hale asked, "Were you a part of this discussion?" Answer: "I don't know anything about it."

Hale's next words did not bode well for the ET team. Hale said "I'm very disappointed, (referring to the absence of MSFC and ET representatives on the telecon) and am inclined to assign actions to MSFC, ET, and Lockheed Martin MAF to evaluate and consult with KSC and report back to this board. There needs to be more communication."

This lack of ET readiness for this formal, predictable, weekly tag-up is especially significant given all of the ET processing issues leading up to STS-114 - issues relating to faulty procedures which led to the foam shedding during ascent. One would think that the ET team would be at their sharpest. It would seem that some people still do not see the urgency to do so.

Earlier PRCB updates:

PRCB: Shuttle Launch Dates Are Still TBD, 14 Nov 2005

Shuttle Scheduling Update, 4 Nov 2005

PRCB Tackles STS-121 Launch Date, 14 Oct 2005 notes: "The External Tank that was swapped out prior to the last Shuttle mission due to faulty fuel sensors was recently inspected and found to have numerous cracks in the PAL ramps (foam). These were believed to have been the result of filling the ET twice on the launch pad prior to its removal and replacement. This has put added pressure on NASA and USA personnel to show that the PAL Ramps can be removed prior to the next flight. Analysis efforts are underway and wind tunnel tests are planned." notes:"In reference to your article titled "PRCB Update: ET Folks Not Ready For Prime Time", your source is obviously not knowledgeable about Orbiter modifications nor mission planning. The improved main landing gear wheel and tire upgrade discussed in the piece is a safety improvement. And while it is true that the modification will weigh 216 lbs., this additional weight is already factored into the mission performance. The purpose of the asking to have the modification baselined at the 11/17 PRCB was to allow the flight software community adequate time to make changes to the flight software for STS-115 to accommodate the improved main landing gear wheel and tire modification. That approval was granted at the PRCB."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 21, 2005 9:02 AM.

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