Servicing Mission 3B

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To the Launch Pad

After our hardware undergoes final processing at the VPF, it is packaged for transportation to the Orbiter.
This is done by installing the carriers into a Canister, that has the same layout as the Orbiter.  The Canister is
then rotated upright, and then trucked to the launch pad.  The Canister is visible in the image below as the large
white box on the ground to the left of the Orbiter.  For another example of how this occurs, click here.

A lesser known part of the launch pad is the Rotating Service Structure, which is on the left in this image.  It is essentially a large
rotating door that folds and covers the Orbiter.  At the bottom of the vertical column on the left is a large set of wheels that ride
on a circular track.  By covering the Orbiter with the RSS, it allows easy access to the payload bay.  For a view of the
Shuttle with the RSS covering it, click here (from STS-95).

Once it arrives on the pad, the Canister is lifted in front of the Payload Changeout Room (PCR).  Then, our hardware
is tranferred in one massive move into the room, and then Canister is then removed.  After that, the RSS is rotated to
cover the orbiter, its doors are opened, and our hardware is transferred into the Orbiter.  Note the large hinge column
on the right of the image.  The RSS rotates around this point.

Columbia on its launchpad (39A), ready for launch.  Actually, not quite.  Her payload has not been installed yet,
and the yellow bars on the payload bay doors that are used to open the doors have not been removed yet.
At the same time that this photo was shot, Sean O'Keefe, the new NASA Administrator, was present
for a pad visit.  Weather was excellent, the sky was a cloudless blue.

At the Orbiter access hatch.  On the cover (left) is the name of the orbiter, and below
the step ramp is the mission and orbiter designation.  Since no flash was allowed, the picture is a little fuzzy.

View from the other side (different day with camcorder), courtesy Rus Burgess.  In the
background is one of my colleques, Mike Schools (NSI).

Once we have 10 or fewer days to go till launch, KSC puts up a sign with a counter showing
days until the launch.  It is always exciting to drive into work every day and see it go down gradually.

In the case of a pad emergency when the crew is in the Shuttle, they can leave the launch pad
very quickly by jumping into these slide wire baskets, hitting a pedal, and sliding away from the pad down a cable.  Wheeeee......

View of the entire cargo bay.  The ARUBA is visible on the radiator on the left edge of the image.
E-mail me for a HUGE version of this image.

Closeup of the MULE carrier, which holds the radiator.  Note the end of the Shuttle robot arm on the left side of the image (port side).

As is the tradition with the HST project, we have a formal launch party at the Patrick Air Force Base Officer's Club.
This occurred on Feb 26, 2002, three days before launch.

We had several additional guests from Aruba for the launch.  From left to right,
Nilton Lacle (editor of the Aruba newspaper 'Diario'), Rosaria Lacle, Ed, Stephanie, Agnes,
Christopher, Ed's Mom, Gideon Chong.  Not shown is Jan Poets, who covered the events
with video.

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