|Posted on May 31, 2009 11:11:45 PM | Dan Kanigan | 7 Comments ||
Yesterday I was able to go down to get an up-close look at the 747 and the shuttle orbiter as the team was getting them ready for the flight. I took the Landing Recovery Manager, Dean Schaaf, to help me understand all the work that needs to be done between now and departure.
You can watch a video of the pre-flight activities by clicking this link (Windows, streaming):
Dean told me that there are about 50 employees stationed at Edwards that assist with the landing and there are about 65 more employees from Kennedy Space Center that make the trip out from Kennedy as soon as they get word the shuttle is going to land in California. Dean was one of the 65 from Florida. He said he got the call, ran home, packed his bags and jumped on a plane heading west. More shuttle team members traveled out to Dryden after the orbiter landed. The full team is made up of shuttle techs and engineers, people who work specifically with the tiles on the shuttle’s belly, safety and quality engineers, logistics people and this time…me.
He also told me that when the shuttle lands at Edwards, it generally takes about seven days to prepare it for attaching to the 747. Thanks to some weather, the team got an extra day this time so they decided to get some “get ahead” work done to ease the load on the shuttle processing team back at Kennedy. While Dean and I were walking around getting a look at the shuttle, members of the team were inspecting and preparing the tiles for the ferry flight.
Here are a couple more shots from underneath the orbiter.
In case you’ve never seen them, this is what the tiles look like up close. They are part of the orbiter’s thermal protection system or TPS and they are made of coated silica ceramics. Their job is to protect the underside of the orbiter from the extreme heat when the shuttle reenters Earth’s atmosphere. By the way, I looked it up….reentry temperature can exceed 2300 degrees Fahrenheit! Umm, yeah. Hot.
Tags : Atlantis, Daniel Kanigan, Edwards Air Force Base, STS-125, ferry flight, piggyback, space shuttle