Installation into DiscoveryThe launch pad consists of the two major parts that are shown in the photo below. On the right in the image is of course the Shuttle sitting on the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP), but the other lesser known part is the Rotating Service Structure (RSS). The MLP is so named because that is the platform that supports the Shuttle allowing it to be carried around by the Crawler. In addition, the Shuttle takes off from this platform. The RSS allows access to the Shuttle cargo bay while on the pad.
Launch Complex 39B consists of two major parts,
the Canister is installed onto the RSS,
while the Shuttle stands on the MLP.
For an image of the RSS covering the Shuttle, click here.
For an image of the wheel of the RSS, click here.
The RSS structure supports a clean room known as the Payload Changeout Room (PCR). This is burried under the struts of the RSS. When the Canister arrives on the pad, it is attached to the PCR. The Canister is the white box visible in the middle of the RSS in the above image. The RSS and the MLP are joined by a hinge in the middle. The RSS is also on wheels, allowing it to rotate around and completely cover the shuttle. Click here for an image of that. In a sense, the RSS is like a huge refrigerator door that closes onto the orbiter allowing access to the cargo bay for installation of payloads.
The canister is the white container in the upper left. Full size.
By attaching the Canister onto the PCR, the cradle can be transferred into the launch pad. The Canister is then removed, and the RSS is rotated to cover the shuttle. The cargo bay doors are opened and the cradle is tranferred into the shuttle. Installation occurred on approximately October 7 1998.
The cargo bay of STS-95. Full size
The image above shows the cargo bay of STS-95. This image is shot from the Payload Changeout Room on the launch pad LC39-B. The two shiny panels on the left and right are the open cargo bay doors. The top of the image is where the crew cabin is located, and the bottom is the tail of the spacecraft. The yellow ring on the floor of the PCR marks the point where the Shuttle ends and the launch pad begins. From top to bottom, the payloads for this mission are:
- Space Station Docking Fixture. This allows the Shuttle to attach to Mir Space Station and the International Space Station.
- Spacehab. This is a small lab where John Glenn and Chiaki Mukai will be conducting science experiments. They get to this room via a tunnel that runs past the Docking Fixture.
- Cryo TSU. This is a small canister on the starboard (right) side of the cargo wall. It is a cryogenic refrigerator also.
- Spartan. This is a free-flying experiment. This means that the astronauts will be using the Shuttle robot arm (the RMS is on the left along the cargo bay wall) to set free this spacecraft and then retrieve it after the mission.
- HOST. The most important payload in the bay. A closeup of the HOST Controller is shown in the image below.
- IEH. This is a hitchhiker class payload containing many science experiments including from a highschool in Maryland that is flying some bugs.