December 16th, 2010

Tuesday, December 13th was devoted to the integrated simulation of STS-134 mission flight day number 4,  “Deploy and Install”. The crew practiced a lot of space works, from Shuttle docking phase to AMS installation on the ISS. In particular the astronauts performed the rehearsal of when AMS-02 will be extracted from the Endeavour’s bay through the shuttle arm, handed off to the ISS arm and finally berthed on ISS truss. The hand over process of AMS-02 will be followed by Roberto Vittori and Andrew Feustel on the Shuttle and by Gregory Johnson and Greg Chamitoff on the ISS: we are in their hands! Anyway, the simulation was almost real, so close to reality that Astronauts had even to eat the same (horrible!) meal scheduled on the fourth day of their mission.

All the activities took place in Houston, JSC: AMS Team was in the Payload Control Room (where the KSC-POCC is going to move); STS-134 Crew members were based in the Mission Control Center (MCC-H), while ISS operations were controlled from the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC at Marshall Space Flight Center). One day before the simulation, our Flight Director invited us and the crew to an informal social after hours.

Another almost real mission day was spent on December 9th for the voice loop simulation dubbed “A day in the life” of AMS-02/ISS operations. Calls and data exchanges occurred among AMS-02 POCC at KSC (SSPF), ISS HOSC at MSFC, ISS systems and STS-134 crew both based in JSC, and other payloads around US and Europe.

As recently announced, the launch date of STS-134 mission onboard the Shuttle Endeavour has been postponed to April 1st NET, due to the STS-133 mission delay and the consequent update of the whole ISS manifest.
The two large payloads on the STS-134 mission, the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 (ELC3) and AMS-02, will have to wait at least one more month. As you can see from the pictures below, the spectrometer was almost completely integrated: all mechanical elements and Shuttle/ISS interfaces have been added and the last few MLI sheets are waiting for the final installation. Most  payload operations are now related to software simulation and control.

Meanwhile  the Shuttle preparation in the OPF-2 is almost finished and the Endeavour is now ready to be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building in January. With the Orbiter Rollover taking place next year and the actual smooth operations flow, it’s time for new plans: managers are discussing the addition of an “exercise protocol” EVA-3 during the STS-134 mission which has already been increased by two days.

Given the relaxed schedules, some upgrades have also been implemented on the experiment. In particular the thermal dissipation path of the  printed circuit board (PCB) of the Power Distribution System (PDS) has been improved, in order to better match the PDS lifetime with the ISS one, that is at least 20 years. This intervention has been performed by the board manufacturer, the Italian company Carlo Gavazzi Space.