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How NASA Prepares To Rescue Hubble, In Photos

timothy posted about 6 years ago | 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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first! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24844217)

First! to get modded down that is...

Re:first! (0, Offtopic)

QX-Mat (460729) | about 6 years ago | (#24844295)

i can spare some karma :D

10...9...8.... (1)

Coraon (1080675) | about 6 years ago | (#24844277)

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.... (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 6 years ago | (#24844877)

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.... (3, Interesting)

florescent_beige (608235) | about 6 years ago | (#24845841)

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:10...9...8.... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24846787)

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 industrial trucks on a production line, I can hardly imagine how many checklists, memos, reports, status meetings, etc, the shuttle program must involve.

Furthermore, the astronauts are involved in major decisions. If they have concerns about a process or a design change, they're given an opportunity to voice those concerns. Most of them are engineers, so they're competant to understand and evaluate what they're being told. When it comes right down to it, if they're not comfortable with hand-applied foam, balky LH2 sensors, or other issues, they have a lot of say in whether or not something is sufficient. The fact that they willingly accept the risk suggests to me they're pretty confident in the engineering team that stands behind them.

Re:10...9...8.... (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | about 6 years ago | (#24862947)

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 [] (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 available in abort situations.

I mis-remembered the original SSME target removal and overhaul frequency, it was 10 [] missions not 100.

The relatively new block II high pressure fuel [] and oxidizer [] turbopumps are advertised (by P&W) to last 10 missions between overhaul with a total life of 30 missions. As far as I know the engines are still being removed every flight.

Re:10...9...8.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24865397)

The old saying that the airplane can fly when the weight of the paperwork exceeds the weight of the airplane.

Rockets take that further and include the fuel.

The shuttles' paperwork does account for the major cost allocation of engineering and technician time, compared to actual touch labor. There is mandated supervision, plus quality oversight and additional bureaucracy that multiplies the cost.

Every part, even tiny screws and washers, are traceable back to its raw material and designer.

This is typical of aerospace, but human space flight is far more demanding and that costs lottsa bucks.


Vodcasts (4, Funny)

Bemopolis (698691) | about 6 years ago | (#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".

Re:Vodcasts (1)

Zashi (992673) | about 6 years ago | (#24845413)

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?

Re:Vodcasts (1)

whimmel (189969) | about 6 years ago | (#24845509)

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

Re:Vodcasts (1)

Khemisty (1246418) | about 6 years ago | (#24846119)

"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? (0, Offtopic)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24844497)

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?

Re:Rescue? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24844565)

Crap, nevermind, misunderstood the summary, again. I wonder where I caught the idea that "rescue" meant bringing back on Earth :S.

Re:Rescue? (2, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 6 years ago | (#24845579)

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.

Re:Rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24845769)

It's not even possible anymore, because there's no shuttle left that Hubble could fit into. All the remaining shuttles have an Airlock for docking with the ISS in the payload bay. Columbia was the last shuttle that didn't receive this "upgrade" yet.

Re:Rescue? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 6 years ago | (#24846533)

I dunno... A day or two with a Sawzall and it might fit again. :)

Re:Rescue? (1)

GrayNimic (1051532) | about 6 years ago | (#24849327)

I thought the airlock was removable? While there currently is no reason to be removing them (since it's all ISS missions or this EVA-intensive mission), my understanding that they were one of the 'many' pressurized cargo bay attachments, like SpaceLab, SpaceHab, etc, which were able to be included or removed as missions required. Or did the SSPTS [] upgrade remove that option?

Re:Rescue? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 years ago | (#24845867)

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.

Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (4, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | about 6 years ago | (#24845121)

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.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (4, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 years ago | (#24848501)

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.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24865491)

The replacement cover will be clipped on, and the old cover with its 111 screws and capture panel will be returned to earth. The screws were to rigidize the panel and the chassis for launch stresses, and really serve no function in space, other than simply being a cover.


Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 years ago | (#24865949)

Ah, now I get it. That's much less maddening. I could undo 111 screws, totally.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24849135)

Unlit, really? Ah, I forgot that the Sun doesn't shine in space.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (1)

pragma_x (644215) | about 6 years ago | (#24849171)

"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.

Re:Fixing what wasn't designed to be fixed. (1)

mollymoo (202721) | about 6 years ago | (#24852815)

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.

This isn't how it's supposed to go... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24845211)

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:This isn't how it's supposed to go... (1, Funny)

florescent_beige (608235) | about 6 years ago | (#24845633)

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

Wake me up when we get to Plan 9.

Re:This isn't how it's supposed to go... (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | about 6 years ago | (#24846769)


Re:This isn't how it's supposed to go... (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | about 6 years ago | (#24846895)

"Yeah, but it's the only game in town." - Canada Bill Jones

Re:This isn't how it's supposed to go... (1)

smussman (1160103) | about 6 years ago | (#24846247)

(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.

Photo 19: Multi-use Logistics Element (1)

Phanatic1a (413374) | about 6 years ago | (#24846183)

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

The have a space "mule"? (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | about 6 years ago | (#24848763)

Or for covering it in flammables and driving it into Niska's station.

Photograph selection. (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#24849717)

"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:

Re:Photograph selection. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24852971)

Quite true. I also thought about pointing this out, but at the same time, it's refreshing to see the coverage from a major news organization, meaning there is a reasonable belief the general public will find this stuff interesting (rightly so).

Furthermore, while I sometimes browse the galleries you linked to, there's an overwhelming number of photos on there. It seems with each mission they take a greater number of photos. It was nice to have a single page of decent resolution (not those ~400 pixel thumbnails that CNN seems to think count as high resolution) images that have been down-selected to a handful of the most interesting.

The Globe gallery is the sort I can share and discuss with others who have a less devoted interest in space without boring them out of their minds while I dig through 20 pages of pictures.

Repair video available (3, Informative)

Agent Orange (34692) | about 6 years ago | (#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. []

Runtime is 38:51

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