November 10th, 2010

Last week was a very busy one for the AMS team at the Kennedy Space Center, where the main integration operations are now almost done. On Monday, AMS-02 underwent a 180° rotation that rolled it upside down. This was requested in order to reach some otherwise inaccessible areas of the experiment, for interventions which were performed on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, after another 180° rotation, AMS-02 was  again “head up” and a very important component was installed: the grapple fixture for the SRMS (the Endeavour’s robotic arm). Called Flight Releasable Grapple Fixture (FRGF), it’s a stick-shaped projection that the arm will grasp to pick up AMS-02 from the shuttle bay and hand it off it to the ISS arm for berthing on the Space Station truss. (The grapple fixture for the ISS Canadarm, called Power Video Grapple Fixture, or PVGF, had been installed previously).

On Thursday, AMS-02 was moved from the ELC rotation stand to its last “home” in the SSPF, the Cargo Element Work Stand (CEWS), where it will remain until its final move into the canister, the container used to transport the payload to the launchpad.

However, moving around  a 7-ton spectrometer  is not a joke: some twenty people – all NASA, JCS, KSC staff and people from the AMS team – where involved in the operation, that lasted nearly four hours. AMS-02 had to be hanged by a hook and a huge frame to the bridge crane, a roof railway that runs along the highbay walls, where it “flew” suspended up to the opposite side of the bay.

Then AMS-02 was lowered in another

stand where the Weight &

Center of Gravity Check

was performed.

This is a very sensitive check,

used to refine the finest details

of the AMS-02 computer model

used by the robotic arms to “know”

how to manipulate the experiment.

Finally, on Friday the last

important installations needed to

configure AMS-02 for launch and

on-orbit operations were performed,

adding a Debris Shield and the

Remotely Operated Electrical

Umbilical (ROEU), the component

through which are made

the electrical attachments within

the shuttle payload bay.

It  has been a crucial week for  AMS-02,  a lot of important  tasks were accomplished. Unfortunately, in the same days the STS-133 launch was delayed and then scrubbed because of technical issues that are currently being troubleshooted by NASA engineers: the Discovery launch is now scheduled not earlier than November the 30th, a delay that will not cause delays on the STS-134 mission. The disappointment for the delayed  STS-133 had a silver lining for us: many of the VIPs arrived at KSC for the launch came to visit AMS-02, among them NASA Chief Administrator Charles Bolden and Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

During the next weeks we will continue with software tests and computer upgrades, while in the highbay the experiment will receive the final touch, the completion of the MLI blankets, the Multi-Layer Insulation material covering various components and sub-detectors of the AMS  payload.