Christer Fuglesang's newsletter: What a circus!
Houston, 27 July 2009 As I've said before – you have to be flexible in the space launch business – but this last week trumps it all. Every date from August 18 to 25 has been mentioned as a possible launch date, and when we got home last Friday it was said that the 25th was the earliest possible day.
When I came to work this morning we had a new exercise plan, including three journeys to KSC for different purposes. But a few hours later the 24th was the date, and now there is talk about the 23rd instead.
This will also change the dates for our trips to Florida and the dress rehearsal for the launch, the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, will now be around August 6–7 (after being scheduled for August 9–11 for a few days). This doesn't make it easy to plan other stuff. There are, for example, some journalists that want to come to Houston to do interviews and I can't promise anything since I don't have a definite schedule.
The main reason for all the changes is that they want us up as soon as possible, but without our flight colliding, timewise, with the next craft bound for the ISS – the Japanese cargo craft HTV. Since the tests on our external tank and other preparations have gone better than expected during the weekend, our launch date is being pushed back and forth all the time now.
Our Space Shuttle Discovery has today been mounted on the tank in the huge Vehicle Assembly Building, VAB. http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/facilities/vab.html
At the beginning of next week the entire ‘stack’ – the external tank, the two solid fuel boosters (on the sides) with Discovery in the middle, will be rolled out onto the launch pad. This morning it was said that the roll-out would be on the 5th, but now it appears to be on the 3rd instead. We, the crew, hope anyway that we can go down to the Cape and be there for the roll-out.
Training-wise it's mostly rehearsals now. Tomorrow, however, Danny and I will dive with Zeb in the spacewalk pool using tubes in order to examine some of the tasks we may have to take over from STS-127. That flight is almost over and by and large all the five spacewalks went well, but a few small things remain to be done.
On Friday we have the last spacewalk exercise with spacesuits. This is for EVA-3, and I hope it goes as well as when we did the last EVA-2 exercise last week. Wednesday–Thursday we fly to the Cape. At least this week’s schedule seems reasonably settled.