Orbiter Ground Turnaround
Spacecraft recovery operations at the nominal end-of-mission landing
site are supported by approximately 160 Space Shuttle launch operations
team members. Ground team members wearing self-contained atmospheric
protective ensemble suits that protect them from toxic chemicals
approach the spacecraft as soon as it stops rolling. The ground
team members take sensor measurements to ensure the atmosphere in
the vicinity of the spacecraft is not explosive. In the event of
propellant leaks, a wind machine truck carrying a large fan will
be moved into the area to create a turbulent airflow that will break
up gas concentrations and reduce the potential for an explosion.
A ground support equipment air-conditioning purge unit is attached
to the right-hand orbiter T-0 umbilical so cool air can be directed
through the orbiter's aft fuselage, payload bay, forward fuselage,
wings, vertical stabilizer, and orbital maneuvering system/reaction
control system pods to dissipate the heat of entry.
A second ground support equipment ground cooling unit is connected
to the left-hand orbiter T-0 umbilical spacecraft Freon Coolant
loops to provide cooling for the flight crew and avionics during
the postlanding and system checks. The spacecraft fuel cells remain
powered up at this time. The flight crew will then exit the spacecraft,
and a ground crew will power down the spacecraft.
AT KSC, the orbiter and ground support equipment convoy move from
the runway to the Orbiter Processing Facility.
If the spacecraft lands at Edwards, the same procedures and ground
support equipment are used as at the KSC after the orbiter has stopped
on the runway. The orbiter and ground support equipment convoy move
from the runway to the orbiter mate and demate facility at Edwards.
After detailed inspection, the spacecraft is prepared to be ferried
atop the Shuttle carrier aircraft from Edwards to KSC. For ferrying,
a tail cone is installed over the aft section of the orbiter.
In the event of a landing at an alternate site, a crew of about
eight team members will move to the landing site to assist the astronaut
crew in preparing the orbiter for loading aboard the Shuttle carrier
aircraft for transport back to the KSC. For landings outside the
United States, personnel at the contingency landing sites will be
provided minimum training on safe handling of the orbiter with emphasis
on crash rescue training, how to tow the orbiter to a safe area,
and prevention of propellant conflagration.
Upon its return to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) at KSC,
the orbiter is safed (ordnance devices safed), the payload (if any)
is removed, and the orbiter payload bay is reconfigured from the
previous mission for the next mission. Any required maintenance
and inspections are also performed while the orbiter is in the OPF.
A payload for the orbiter's next mission may be installed in the
orbiter's payload bay in the OPF or may be installed in the payload
bay when the orbiter is at the launch pad.
The spacecraft is then towed to the Vehicle Assembly Building and
mated to the external tank. The external tank and solid rocket boosters
are stacked and mated on the mobile launcher platform while the
orbiter is being refurbished. Space Shuttle orbiter connections
are made and the integrated vehicle is checked and ordnance is installed.
The mobile launcher platform moves the entire space shuttle system
on four crawlers to the launch pad, where connections are made and
servicing and checkout activities begin. If the payload was not
installed in the OPF, it will be installed at the launch pad followed
by prelaunch activities.
Space Shuttle launches from Vandenberg will use the Vandenberg
Launch Facility (SL6), which was built but never used for the manned
orbital laboratory program. This facility was modified for Space
Transportation System use.
The runway at Vandenberg was strengthened and lengthened from 8,000
feet to 12,000 feet to accommodate the orbiter returning from space.
When the orbiter lands at Vandenberg, the same procedures and ground
support equipment and convoy are used as at KSC after the orbiter
stops on the runway. The orbiter and ground support equipment are
moved from the runway to the Orbiter Maintenance and Checkout Facility
at Vandenberg. The orbiter processing procedures used at this facility
are similar to those used at the OPF at the KSC.
Space Shuttle buildup at Vandenberg differs from that of the KSC
in that the vehicle is integrated on the launch pad. The orbiter
is towed overland from the Orbiter Maintenance and Checkout Facility
at Vandenberg to launch facility SL6.
SL6 includes the launch mount, access tower, mobile service tower,
launch control tower, payload preparation room, payload changeout
room, solid rocket booster refurbishment facility, solid rocket
booster disassembly facility, and liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen
storage tank facilities.
The SRB start the on-the-launch-pad buildup followed by the external
tank. The orbiter is then mated to the external tank on the launch
The launch processing system at the launch pad is similar to the
one used at KSC.
Kennedy Space Center Launch Operations has responsibility for all
mating, prelaunch testing and launch control ground activities until
the Space Shuttle vehicle clears the launch pad tower. Responsibility
is then turned over to Mission Control Center-Houston. The Mission
Control Center's responsibility includes ascent, on-orbit operations,
entry, approach and landing until landing runout completion, at
which time the orbiter is handed over to the postlanding operations
at the landing site for turnaround and re-launch. At the launch
site the SRBs and external tank are processed for launch and the
SRBs are recycled for reuse.