Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My First Shuttle Mission

A lot has been going on over the last few weeks, but it's all been about work. We just completed STS-117/13A mission. This was my first shuttle/ISS assembly flight. I never worked one as RAVEN (our group's back room position). I'm one of the few people who had the opportunity to go straight to ODIN (the front room position). I was scheduled to work a flight as RAVEN last summer, but I went to ISU instead. This mission was one for the record books as far as I'm concerned. I think it was the most challenging mission since we began assembling the ISS. The challenges weren't all part of the planned mission or related to the blanket that everyone heard so much about on the news. The unexpected challenges were failures in several systems, and the majority of the challenges were with the system. Early in the mission the shuttle had a computer failure that I think was resolved fairly easily. I don't really know though because I was too busy dealing with our own issues. A new truss segment (S4) was brought to the ISS, and it contained 4 new MDMs (computers). The first 3 were activated without any problems, but when we attempted to activate the 4th, we never saw anything from it. This MDM was a critical piece of equipment for the mission. Without it we would not achieve our objective of deploying the new solar array. PHALCON couldn't tell us if the MDM was powered because it was impossible to pull that one piece of data out of their telemetry and plots, so we began our troubleshooting. We worked together to develop several plans to obtain additional insight into the problem. Then with that information we were able to develop a plan that ultimately resolved the problem and allowed us to activate the MDM and continue the mission as planned. It was an incredible feeling of accomplishment (and adrenaline) to work out a problem in real time.

Then a couple of days later all of the computers in the Russian Service Module may have heard about this one in the news, so I'll spare you the details. Let's just say this was a big deal and involved a lot of smart people to figure out a workaround that would allow the crew to stay on the ISS! It took longer than anyone would have like, but the Russians figured out a way to workaround the problem. We are still getting comfortable with the workaround, but we are continuing with our normal operations.

With all of this and the blanket problems on the shuttle that were also all over the news, we were happy to see the shuttle undock and safely land. The "fly-around" that the shuttle does after undocking from ISS was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I'll try to get a picture to post.

Our next big event happens next week...yes, during the July 4th holiday. It is our biggest software transition, and software transitions are my group's responsibility. I'd like to say that once that is over I'll get a break, but there's another big event on ISS the following week. Then we hope to launch another shuttle in early August!

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