Aug 23, 2007- Hot day on the runway STS-118 (part 3)

Most of the visitors are gone now and a group called flight crew systems, who have been destowing experiments, trash, and other lockers of stuff from the mid deck ever since the hatch has been opened, have just finished up their work and are pulling away from the white room stairtruck.

At this point, I’m helping out where I can, but my work is pretty much done until we start rolling again, So I get in a picture of me with the vehicle.

and get to take a neat shot down the side of the vehicle looking down the runway before we pull the stairtruck out.

The tow bar is installed onto the nosegear, then the tug hooks up to it

All the upper thrusters have had throat plugs installed into them to keep out rain and debris while other last minute towing preps are performed, then we are ready to roll.

Observers are positioned under the vehicle and walk with it for the 3 or 4 mile trip back to the OPF. They check to see if the brake assemblies are binding initially, then are used for FOD (foreign object/debris) monitoring along the road to keep the tires from getting damaged and watching clearances as the orbiter passes through gates. I’m glad I was riding in a/c!

The boom operators have to keep the right amount of tension on their lines going to the T-0 areas at all times to keep from hitting the tile or putting too much strain on the connections during the roll back which can be tricker than it seems while going around corners. It took us about an hour to get back to the OPFs.

Traffic was stopped on SR 3 and several tourists in buses got to watch as the convoy went past– rare sight for non-employees, but even we turn into tourists when big events like this happen. Most of these people work with me. The others are in the bay waiting to receive the bird.

We round the final turn and line up the orbiter to spot it correctly into the bay at 1730 hr. That blue shrouded bag looking thing is another staircase truck. The SCOs, who are in the vehicle from the runway to this point, have been safing systems, keeping power on critical vehicle systems and monitoring the cooling of avionics. They will be changed out at this point, because the next set of SCOs will be locked in there for around 12 hours. Because of the mod that allowed us to use the Space Station’s power, we came back with more cryogenics onboard than in previous missions (which power the fuel cells and provide breathing air and potable water) and needed to burn off as much as we could so they had everything turned on to try and use some of it up. That creates a lot of heat in the vehicle, even with ground servicing trucks hooked up.
SCO changeout begins at the door, then it was towed into the bay and spotted.

There is a 1 inch tolerance for final spotting; this is needed because the fixed platforms and especially the white room for the hatch will not line up correctly if it is out of position. Lasers are used to help guide it into place, but towing a vehicle this size can be tricky. It was towed in and out of the bay 4 times before hitting the correct spot.


About John Sep

Former Space Shuttle aerospace technician and private pilot now looking towards the next great adventure. Soon to be heading home from my overseas assignment! Transfered my blog from MySpace to here so check my older stuff for info and pictures from my days in space shuttle processing- lots of behind the scenes stuff! He drew pics, flew planes, fought fires and helped launch people into space - what will he do next?
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2 Responses to Aug 23, 2007- Hot day on the runway STS-118 (part 3)

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