Sequence of Fortunate Events

Have you ever wanted to ask a shuttle astronaut, “What’s a launch like?” Well, here is a minute-by-minute, and sometimes second-by-second list of what they do. This kind of thing interests me a lot. If it doesn’t interest you, that’s okay. My own thoughts are in bold.

Friday July 8

  • 12:01 am      Countdown enters 2-hr hold at the T-6 hour mark
  • 1:30 am        Tanking weather briefing (full MMT not required) (At this briefing, they decided to go ahead with tanking, despite poor weather outlook. We know now thru 20-20 hindsight that it was a good gamble.)
  • 1:50 am        NASA TV: External Tank fueling coverage begins
  • 2:01 am        Countdown resumes at T-6 hr mark (I got up at 2, and checked email, finding a notice that tanking had begun, only minutes before. So I decided, despite having a couple of hours sleep, to go ahead and get ready to meet other tweeters at 3am. This was great news.)
  • External Tank loading begins (transfer line “chilldown”)
  • 2:46 am        Liquid Hydrogen Low Level Cutoff (LLCO) sensors go “wet”
  • 3:01 am        Liquid Hydrogen “fast fill” begins (Meanwhile, Tweeters staying in Daytona met at the Speedway La Quinta to carpool to KSC)
  • 3:31 am        APU test/service line htr cycles begin (tanking start +1.5 hrs)
  • 4:01 am        APU fuel line heater cycles begin (tanking start + 2 hrs)
  • 4:16 am        LH2 “topping” begins (gaseous Hydrogen vent valve cycling)
  • 4:30 am        Crew wake up (We were all at the KSC press badging office parking lot at this time, reading on our phones that the crew was awake. We all noted that the crew got to sleep later than us. )
  • 5:00 am        Crew final medical exams (Gates opened and all the tweeters convoyed through to the parking area at the VAB)
  • 5:01 am        Countdown enters 2½ -hr hold (T-3 hr mark) (So it was holding at -3 when we got to the tent.)
  • ET in stable replenish
  • Closeout Crew to White Room
  • Final Inspection Team (FIT) “walkdown”
  • 5:30 am        Ascent Team on console in Mission Control
  • 5:40 am        Crew breakfast table photo op (taped for playback later)
  • 5:45 am        Crew breakfast
  • 6:30 am        LAUNCH COVERAGE BEGINS on NASA TV
  • 6:56 am        Crew receives weather brief from Ascent Team
  • 7:06 am        Crew suits up for launch (Tweeters took our group photo at the countdown clock)
  • 7:31 am        Countdown resumes at the T-3 hour mark
  • 7:36 am        Crew departs Ops & Checkout Building for launch pad 39A (One of the best parts of the day! We walked over to the road and waved at the astrovan as the STSW-135 astronauts traveled to the launch pad)
  • 8:00 am        Mission Management Team on console
  • 8:06 am        Crew begins to board Atlantis
  • 8:26 am        T-38 weather recon takeoff (Astronaut Rick Sturckow)
  • 9:21 am        Atlantis’ hatch is closed and latched for launch
  • 9:36 am        Transoceanic Abort Landing weather aircraft takeoff
  • 9:41 am        Shuttle Training Aircraft takeoff (Sturckow) (I’m not sure if it was this flight on the one at 8:26 above, but we saw one of these planes go by)
  • 10:11 am      Countdown enters a 10-minute hold at the T-20 minute mark
  • Firing Room computer programs verified
  • Landing convoy status check
  • Abort landing sites checked
  • Inertial Measurement Unit preflight alignment verified
  • Preps for computer software transition to terminal count
  • 10:21 am      Countdown resumes at the T-20 minute mark
  • 10:32 am      Countdown enters an ~45-min. hold at the T-9 minute mark
  • MMT conducts final “Go-No Go” poll for launch (Heard this and tweeted it over the loudspeakers at the site)
  • 11:17:46 am Countdown resumes at the T-9 minute mark
  • 11:19:16 am Orbiter Access Arm (OAA) retract (T-7:30 min)
  • 11:20:46 am Verify Auxiliary Power Units (APU) ready to start (T-6 min)
  • 11:21:46 am Auxiliary Power Unit start (T-5 min)
  • 11:21:46 am Launch window opens (Went out to my tripod and attached camera)
  • 11:21:51 am Liquid Oxygen replenish terminate (T-4:55 min)
  • 11:22:46 am Purge Sequence 4 hydraulic test (T-4 min)
  • 11:22:46 am Inertial Measurement Units to inertial (T-4 min)
  • 11:22:51 am Flight Control Surface profile test (T-3:55 min)
  • 11:23:16 am Main Engine profile test (T-3:30)
  • 11:23:51 am LO2 tank pressurization (T-2:55 min)
  • 11:23:56 am Gaseous Oxygen Vent Hood retraction (T-2:50 min)
  • 11:24:11 am Fuel Cells to internal reactants (T-2:35 min)
  • 11:24:16 am Clear caution and warning memory (T-2:30 min)
  • 11:24:46 am Crew closes visors & initiates O2 flow (T-2 min) (Heard this over loudspeaker. It went to T-1 in no time. Fastest minute ever)
  • 11:24:49 am Liquid Hydrogen tank pressurization (T-1:57 min)
  • 11:25:06 am Solid Rocket Booster joint heater deactivation (T-1:40 min)
  • 11:25:56 am Atlantis to internal power (T-50 sec)
  • 11:26:15 am Onboard computers take control of countdown (T-31 sec) (!!!!!!!!!!! This is where the delay was. Countdown was halted for awhile, making the following times incorrect !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • 11:26:25 am Solid Rocket Booster steering test (T-21 sec)
  • 11:26:37 am KSC ground commanding removed by GLS (T-9 sec)
  • 11:26:39 am Main Engine start (T-6.6 sec)
  • 11:26:46 am LAUNCH (ISS 232 miles up / east of Christchurch, NZ)
  • 11:29:01 am End Aerodynamically Sensitive Transport Time (ASTT)
  • 11:31:47 am Launch window closes (Flight Day 3 rendezvous)
  • 11:35:10 am Main Engine Cutoff (MECO) commanded (+8:24)
  • 11:35 16 am Zero thrust – orbit is 135.7/35.7 statute miles (+8:30)
  • 11:42 am      APU/Hydraulic shutdown (~MET 15 min)
  • 11:50 am      NASA TV: Launch Replays
  • 11:52 am      APU heater tank/fuel line/water sys 1B, 2B, 3B
  • cockpit switches to “auto” (~MET 25 min)
  • 12:06 pm      OMS 2 Burn – target 141.5/97.8 statute miles
  • 12:30 pm      NASA TV: Post launch news conference
  • 12:51 pm      Payload Bay Door opening
  • 2:30 pm        NASA TV: Ascent Flight Control Team video playback
  • 3:06 pm        NC1 Rendezvous Burn (~ MET 3:40)
  • 3:26 pm        Group B Powerdown
  • 5:56 pm        Remote Manipulator System (robot arm) checkout
  • 6:41 pm        External Tank crew handheld video downlink
  • 7:56 pm        Crew sleep

About rennawarren

I've won a spot for the STS-135 NASA Tweetup. I'm going to try to document the experience.
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