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Hubble Servicing Mission 3B

The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia on

February 1, 2003 fills us with a deep sadness.

Our prayers are with the family of the crew of STS-107.

Mission Overview

This fourth mission to repair and upgrade the space telescope was on the Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102)  install the following new instruments/subsystems (roughly in order of installation):
  • Solar Array III with the Diode Box Controller.  To ensure adequate power to run the new science instruments, new arrays will be needed.  These rigid units are originally from the Iridium program, and have much higher output than the current floppy ones that roll up.
  • Power Control Unit.  This unit controls all the power that flows from the arrays and batteries to the entire spacecraft.  A fault with the existing unit uncovered a few years ago requires the replacement of the PCU.  The replacement of this unit requires the power down of the entire HST, something that has not been done in space before.
  • Advanced Camera for Surveys.  This fabulous new instrument will offer ten times the discovery factor from any other previous HST instrument.
  • Reaction Wheel Assembly.  This sub unit provides the ability for HST to orient itself without using propellants.  One of the four units experienced an anomaly several months ago, requiring its replacement at the eleventh hour.
  • NICMOS Cryo Cooler (with ARUBA).  HST's infra-red instrument has been dark for more than two years, and this super cooler will revive it.
  • Other smaller items such as New Outer Blanket Layer.
Those system on which I have worked feature links above.  Clicking on them affords an inside look at their development.  Of all the hardware, the Cryo Cooler is the longest running one, dating back to the HOST mission in 1997.  In some cases, the hardware development occurred recently, such as in the case of the ARUBA.  In any case, after we dedicate much time to building the flight hardware, we transition to a phase to prepare for the Servicing Mission itself.  This involves training the astronaut crew (who will work in space), and our entire team (who will work on the ground).

Preparation for the Mission

As part of this training, we have Mission Simulations (called 'sims'), and Joint Integrated Simulation (called 'jis').  In the former case, it involves mainly the staff at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and in the latter case, it involves the entire team associated with the mission, including the astronaut crew at the Johnson Space Center (JSC), sometimes in a water tank to simulate weightlessness.  During the training, we go thru each mission day, calling each day by their number.  Thus, the first day is called EVA1 (for Extra Vehicular Activity #1), the next is EVA2, etc.  A separate team of simulation engineers control the data we see on our screens, and prepare problems and faults for us to diagnose and repair.  By working many of these 'fake' mission days, we achieve proficiency at solving problems with the HST and the Space Shuttle in real-time when the real mission is underway.

During the third mission training at the Johnson Space Center.  Kevin MacAveety sits to my left.
Compare this image to this one, which was shot just before SM3A at the end of 1999.

Another look at the CSR (Customer Support Room), where we will all be located during the
Servicing Mission.  This room is in the Mission Control Center, which is often seen on television
during the missions.

At the Kennedy Space Center

After we built the hardware as described above, they are transported via truck to the Kennedy Space Center and housed at the Vertical Processing Facility (VPF).  The thumbnail below shows the panoramic view.  For a QuickTime VR 360 degree walk-around, click below (QuickTime 3.0 or later needed, available here).

Click here for a 360 degree view with QuickTime VR (1.2MByte)

or click here for a live streaming camera of the VPF (RealPlayer).

The Space Shuttle is assembled at the 525 foot high Vehicle Assembly Building, one of the largest buildings in the world.  An account of the visit is available here.
Note the many birds enjoying the updraft from the side of the building.  Since Florida is very flat, this is as close to a mountain as it gets.
This picture shot by Mark Hubbard, to see how, click here.

The VAB sits at the end of a wide crawler way that is paved with river rock.  This rock gets crushed to sand after just
a few trips of the crawler.  To see the crawler carrying the Shuttle, click here (previous mission photo).

On January 24, there was an attempt made to roll out the STS-109 to Launch Pad 39A, but a problem
with the steering mechanism caused a postponement.

A closer shot of the External Tank and the two Solid Rocket Boosters.
The wings of the Orbiter are just visible on the sides.  Note the people standing
around the left crawler treads that was the one with the problem.

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