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NASA Space Science

How NASA Prepares To Rescue Hubble, In Photos 37

Posted by timothy
from the life's-photos-I-keep-'em dept.
Jamie pointed out a fantastic set of photos up at The Boston Globe, illustrating the painstaking preparations underway for the Shuttle mission to rescue the Hubble telescope. "This will be the final servicing mission to Hubble, the 30th flight of the 23-year old Atlantis, and one of the final 10 flights of the Space Shuttle program, which will be retired in 2010." Refreshingly, they've decided to include a many of the behind-the-scenes techies and the equipment they steward, rather than just the launch vehicles and crew.
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How NASA Prepares To Rescue Hubble, In Photos

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  • It's interesting to see how they are giving us more information now they they have only a few flights left. I hope they give us more behind the scenes information about the shuttle prep as time goes on.
    • Re:10...9...8.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @11:09AM (#24844877) Homepage

      I'm almost not sure I want to know... I mean, machines this old, of such ridiculous complexity and with as many quirks and hacks as we are already aware of? I'm afraid I might faint at the point where it says "And now for the most important step, Chief Engineer Jim applies a fresh square of duct tape to the fuel line regulator control to keep it from jostling which could cause it to fail and the shuttle to explode. Applying a new piece of duct tape is a new procedure mandated after the Columbia disaster."

      Joking of course, I do want to know, but I'd bet you anything there are some pretty scary hacks going on behind the scenes. :)

      • Re:10...9...8.... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by florescent_beige (608235) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @12:01PM (#24845841) Journal

        I wouldn't say scary hacks but they do do a lot of craftsman-like work that wasn't originally intended.

        For example the foam insulation on the external tank is applied by hand in some areas and the performance is dependent on the workmanship.

        The main engines are removed and rebuilt every mission, the original intent was for them to be swapped out every 100 missions. So the work area in the engine bay is very cramped.

        And the paperwork. Paperwork is a part of every aerospace maintenance job, but on the STS it goes to a whole other level. Each little step on every job being signed off and countersigned as having been done. That's to make sure that everything that is supposed to get done is verifiable via a paper trail. I wouldn't be surprised if the paperwork makes up a large fraction of the cost of each launch.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I'm pretty sure the main engines were always intended to be removed and serviced after every launch. The reason they generate a lot of criticism is the service ended up being more labor intensive than expected. To the best of my knowledge, the engines are lasting their intended service life, as opposed to engines like the F-1, which were considered disposable.

          Given how much paperwork there is even in my company (including reports and informal communications, it makes up about half of my job) which builds
          • I did some more digging on these topics last night but it took be a while because I got side-tracked reading the Columbia accident report which I stumbled across.

            According to Robert Biggs, ex Rocketdyne engineer, the original [enginehistory.org] (pdf, page 6 footnote 1) target life of the SSME was 100 missions with occasional thrust excursions to full power level (FPL) which was 109% of rated power level (RPL). That was cut down to 55 missions to allow constant operation at FPL. I think FPL is now 104% with 109% being availabl

  • Vodcasts (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bemopolis (698691) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @10:46AM (#24844415)
    There are also a series of vodcasts produced by NASA, one of which is "The Last Mission To Hubble". To avoid igniting a platform war, I will decline to point out a piece of software that connects to an online store that carries the NASA vodcasts, but its name is vaguely self-centered and rhymes with "die Zunes".
    • by Zashi (992673)
      is it mySpoons?

      Last I checked you can't run mySpoons on linux :(

      Does anyone know of a way for us Linux losers to watch the vodcasts?
      • by whimmel (189969)

        Actually it runs pretty well with Wine, though the UI is a little flaky with Compiz.

    • by Khemisty (1246418)

      "die Zunes".

      I didn't get the joke until I realized "die" wasn't meant to be German. Gotten pretty use to microsoft (zune) being the butt of so many jokes :-) Sideshow Bob: "No, That's German for, 'The Bart, The." Council Member: "No one who speaks German could be an evil man!"

  • Rescue? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by 4D6963 (933028)
    Interesting, but why? Is it all for the sake of putting it in a museum? Or do we want to reuse some of its instrumentation?
    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Crap, nevermind, misunderstood the summary, again. I wonder where I caught the idea that "rescue" meant bringing back on Earth :S.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Martin Blank (154261)

        The original plan was to bring it back on a future shuttle mission for inclusion in the Smithsonian (hence the lack of a de-orbit thruster on the Hubble). While return of a satellite has been completed successfully, I think it was only done once or twice, and was ruled out for the Hubble years ago.

        • by Sockatume (732728)
          In fact, I think one of the goals for this mission is to fix a docking apparatus so a robotic mission can de-orbit Hubble. It's a shame, really, I'd seen a model in London and hoped to get up close to the real thing some day.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @11:20AM (#24845121) Homepage

    One of the big challenges of this repair mission is they're trying to actually perform a repair that the Hubble was never designed to be done. Normally components are swapped out on a module by module basis, and each module was designed to be swapped out in orbit. But this particular service mission they're going to attempt to repair a module without replacing it (because I believe there is no replacement part available). If you look at picture 12, you'll see a plexiglass apparatus designed to keep in 111 screws. That's what needs to be removed and put back in to repair this module (I think they're replacing a power supply inside the module). It all needs to be done in a vacuum, in a cramped unlit space, while wearing a space suit. Not exactly an easy mission.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @12:01PM (#24845835)
      Are they giving them psychological training to overcome "fuck it, 54 screws will hold it together okay" syndrome? I know I'd be ready to bash Hubble with a sledgehammer by that stage, even without the fiddly space suit.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Meh, one in each corner, a couple in the middle for show and the rest go in a jar on the shelf. I'm sure they'll come in handy some day.

    • by pragma_x (644215)

      "If you look at picture 12, you'll see a plexiglass apparatus designed to keep in 111 screws. "

      If there was ever an example of what could be improved for spaceflight, this would be it.

      There is a very real need for something along the lines of space-flight worthy Lego for building and repairing stuff in orbit.

      • by mollymoo (202721)
        Did you read the post you replied to? It is modular, but in this instance they don't have a spare 'Lego brick' so they have to repair the one that's there. It's analogous to opening up one of your Lego Mindstorms sensors.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Once we complete the Apollo program and launch the shuttle we are supposed to win the game by successfully colonizing Alpha Centauri.

    O'well, I guess we'll have to go back to plan 2: world domination by force of arms.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      O'well, I guess we'll have to go back to plan 2...

      Wake me up when we get to Plan 9.

    • by smussman (1160103)

      (Score:-1, Flamebait)

      Once we complete the Apollo program and launch the shuttle we are supposed to win the game by successfully colonizing Alpha Centauri.

      O'well, I guess we'll have to go back to plan 2: world domination by force of arms.

      Parent is making a half joking comparison to Sid Meier's Civilization. I think -1 Flamebait may be a little strong.

  • They have a M.U.L.E. I hope they're prepared for space pirates.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:42PM (#24849717) Homepage

    "Refreshingly, they've decided to include a many of the behind-the-scenes techies and the equipment they steward, rather than just the launch vehicles and crew."

    If you rely on Big Media for your news and information, you deserve what you get. The photographs in the Globe article all come straight from the NASA and are available on the web to anyone who makes the effort to see them. (NASA has been doing this for years now, and has quite a bit of historical photographs available as well.)
     
    Try these websites:

  • by Agent Orange (34692) <[christhom] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:41PM (#24851689)

    For the interested, here is an online video of a presentation given by ken sembach, the HST project scientist, at a symposium earlier this year. In it, he describe the servicing mission (SM4) in detail, with a particular emphasis on the new instruments being installed (WFC3, COS) and those being repaired (STIS, ACS).

    There some cool shots of the astronauts in the massive water tank that simulates zero-g, practicing removing all those screws with the specially designed screw-plate.

    http://www.stsci.edu/ts/webcasting/ram/HubbleFellows2008/KenSembach031108Hi.ram [stsci.edu]

    Runtime is 38:51

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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