"OTC, NTD, Begin crew module closeout" means
the NTD is directing the OTC to begin preparing the crew module for closing the hatch and launch. Other acronyms are used for system descriptions such as PRSD for the Power Reactant Storage and Distribution System which is the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels that power the orbiter's on-board fuel cells that create electric power. When the flight crew enters the orbiter, the astronauts will hook up to the same communication channel as the OTC. At the T-20 minute mark, the NTD switches over to this channel and it now becomes the Command channel. The integration console in the prime and backup firing rooms maintain communication channels with the other centers, such as the Mission Evaluation Room at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Huntsville Operations Support Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The Mission Evaluation Room plans and implements flight data retrieval, processing, exchange analysis, evaluation and reporting, and post-mission evaluation. The Huntsville center provides technical support on the Shuttle main engines, external tank and solid rocket boosters.
Hookups also are established with the contractors' home offices. Orbiter manufacturer Rockwell International maintains a support room at its Downey, Calif., plant that remains open around the clock throughout a Shuttle mission.
FIRING ROOM PROTOCOL
A special type of discipline is exercised in the prime firing room, commensurate with its importance. Launch team members undergo training in the rules and regulations governing their conduct. These include limiting conversation to the business at hand, no personal telephone calls except in emergency, and no reading of non-work related materials. During time-critical operations, personnel remain at their assigned stations.
From T-3 hours on, entrance into the prime firing room is restricted. Only personnel with firing room badges are allowed in and movement is minimized. A prime firing room badge is issued only to personnel having a direct console position related to the terminal portion of the count. At T-20 minutes, the door to the prime firing room is locked. The intent is to eliminate distractions and allow the team to focus its attention on the countdown.
PAD ACTIVITIES DURING COUNTDOWN
While countdown activities are controlled from the LCC prime firing room, personnel at the pad perform different tasks required for launch preparations. From T-11 hours to T-6 hours, a great deal of final preparation work occurs at the pad: rollback of the Rotating Service Structure; installation of time-critical flight crew equipment; performance of the pre-ingress switch list; sampling of crew seat oxygen; and installation of the crew escape pole in the orbiter. Overseeing these activities and keeping the NTD informed of their progress is the pad leader.
After the External Tank is loaded, only critical and highly specialized teams will travel to the pad again before liftoff. One of these is the Final Inspection Team, also referred to as the ice team, which conducts a preflight walkdown of the vehicle and pad during the two-hour hold at T-3 hours. Another ice team is stationed in the backup firing room. Its job is to monitor the external tank's insulation and attachment struts for excessive ice formation before, during and after loading of the supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Click here for a picture of the ice team on the Mobile Launch Platform.
Another specialized team is the white room closeout crew, which also proceeds to the pad during the two-hour-hold at the T-3 hour mark. Their task is to insure that the orbiter cockpit is properly configured for flight and to assist the astronauts with entry into the orbiter. They also ensure the side hatch is properly closed and that the white room is configured for launch.
Handling of any anomaly at the pad that should occur during or after external tank loading is the responsibility of a red crew. This is not a pre-existing unit, but a team assembled from a pool of specially trained workers with experience in the particular problem area. Members have been specially trained in fire and rescue techniques and must have undergone special certification. Their activity at the pad would be conducted by the system engineer responsible for the anomalous system and under the strict direction of the NASA Test Director..
FINAL GO FOR LAUNCH
Beginning approximately 15 minutes before launch, readiness polls are conducted by the three teams that together comprise the Shuttle Launch Team. The NTD verifies that the prime launch team is reporting no violation of the Launch Commit Criteria. The Engineering Director who heads up the Engineering Support Team verifies no constraints to continuing with the final count. And the Mission Management Team Chairman verifies that there are no open issues with any of the senior element managers.
These three verifications are passed on to the Shuttle Launch Director, who conducts a KSC management poll. Assuming all responsible personnel are in agreement, the Launch Director gives his permission to proceed with the countdown to the NTD. The NTD in turn sets in motion the final nine minutes of the countdown, automatically controlled by the Ground Launch Sequencer.
Once the Shuttle's twin solid rocket boosters ignite at T-0, responsibility for the mission switches from KSC to the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston. KSC once again assumes responsibility after the orbiter has landed and the flight crew has exited the vehicle.
Countdown Home Page
Last Updated Thursday June 08 14:23:42 EDT 1995
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