NASA managers thrilled with results of spacewalk
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 10, 2006
Space station flight director Rick LaBrode sweated bullets going into today's spacewalk to fix a stalled robot arm transporter on the international lab complex. But months of planning, tests and simulations paid off with a successful repair job, clearing the way for resumption of station assembly.
"Man, do I feel better!" LaBrode exclaimed at a post-spacewalk news briefing. "I'll tell you, I've spent the better part of the last three years of my life putting together this mission. And this particular day was my main concern.
"The obvious reasons are, one, It was extremely complex and challenging. And two, there were huge implications for continued space station operations. So it was a big deal, and getting it behind us successfully is a great feeling."
Astronauts Piers Sellers and Mike Fossum spent six hours and 47 minutes carrying out a dramatic spacewalk today, moving a cooling system pump module from the shuttle Discovery's cargo bay to an external storage platform on the station and repairing the mobile transporter.
The transporter, designed to carry the station's robot arm along a huge solar array truss to assist with the lab's construction, has been out of action since last December when a cable cutter inadvertently fired, severing one of two redundant power, data and video cables.
NASA flight rules forbid moving the transporter without redundant power and data and today, Fossum and Sellers installed a new cable reel assembly and a replacement for the mechanism that malfunctioned last year. With the completion of today's spacewalk, the transporter once again has redundant power. The one remaining cable cutter was disabled during a spacewalk Saturday when Sellers and Fossum bolted on a device to physically block the blade from reaching the cable even if it fires.
LaBrode said late today it would take several hours to thoroughly check out the mobile transporter, but engineers were optimistic about positive results.
"We have done a preliminary checkout of connections that they made to the mobile transporter and those connectors all check out nominally," he said. "We still have some more checkouts to do. We've applied power to the mobile transporter and we've tested the telemetry connections. We still are in the process of driving some of the integrated motor control assemblies and we also are going to be looking at some video that passes through that TUS cable. But thus far, everything looks great."
Later, astronaut Lee "Brew" Archambault radioed more good news to the astronauts on board the shuttle-station complex.
"ISS control room reports that so far, they've checked out everything with the exception of the video (from one camera) and everything they have checked out so far has been outstanding, looks great," Archambault said.
"That's great news, we're really glad to hear that," shuttle skipper Steve Lindsey replied.
Phil Engelauf, chief of NASA's flight directors office, said the initial success of Discovery's mission gives the agency optimism about a fast turn around to get Atlantis off the ground in late August.
"We're about at the halfway point here and we have behind us most of the initial evaluation of the shuttle," he said. "The health of the vehicle is great, we're not working any particular problems and now that we've got the early inspection and review of the inspection data behind us, the emphasis of the mission is turning now to the actual tasks at hand. With the completion of the second EVA today, all of that is going really well.
"It's very gratifying, now that we've gotten through a couple of ascents here and are starting to get comfortable with the new tools that we have available to us, it is letting us feel a lot better about proceeding into the (space station) assembly sequence. It's great to be focused on how well everything's going on 121 (Discovery's mission). But we have a huge amount of work coming ahead and the success of this mission so far, I think, is a good indicator that we're heading towards another launch in the August time frame unless anything new comes up."
For readers looking ahead to Atlantis' launch on mission STS-115, here's the latest processing schedule (some dates under review and subject to change):
DATE.......EVENT 07/17/06...Discovery lands 07/25/06...Atlantis rollover to Vehicle Assembly Building (may change) 07/27/06...Payload to launch pad (may change) 08/04/06...Shuttle stack rollout to launch pad (may move up a few days) 08/07/06...Crew flies to Kennedy Space Center 08/08/06...Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test begins 08/09/06...Astronaut Q & A at launch pad 08/10/08...TCDT ends with dress-rehearsal countdown 08/11/06...Pre-flight briefings at the Johnson Space Center 08/15/06...Flight readiness review begins 08/16/06...FRR ends; official launch date announced 08/25/06...Countdown begins 08/28/06...Launch (current estimate: 4:04 p.m. EDT) 09/13/06...Shuttle launch window closes
"The assembly sequence is set to proceed fast and furious here," Engelauf said. "We're only six to seven weeks out from the next mission. The big thing on our plate now, I think, is seeing how well everything worked here, we have a green flag to press ahead and that's where our attention is focused."
The Discovery astronauts will focus Tuesday on continued work to transfer supplies and equipment from the shuttle and the Leonardo cargo module to the space station. A third spacewalk by Fossum and Sellers is on tap Wednesday to test wing leading edge panel repair techniques.