November 7, 2002
The SORCE Pre-ship Review (PSR) was held at Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) in Dulles, Virginia on October 21, 2002. This was the last formal review of SORCE Spacecraft I & T activities at OSC and the final “gate” to shipment to the launch site at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The PSR reviewers, made up of personnel from NASA, OSC, and industry consultants, gave the go-ahead for shipment and complemented the LASP/OSC/NASA team for their “exemplary” performance during all phases of the development of the SORCE Observatory. Under the glow of well deserved praise, the SORCE team proceeded to pack the spacecraft and support equipment for shipment to KSC. All indications at this point were positive for making the December 1st launch date. Less than 24 hours later plans were forced to change when it was learned that the launch vehicle had uncovered a problem with a silicon joint associated with a bond line seal in the vehicle wing assembly. A failed “coupon test” of the bonding material caused enough concern to warrant the rework of the joint with a new batch of bond material. The downside for the SORCE program was a projected schedule delay of approximately 2 weeks. The ultimate ripple effect was the slippage of the proposed launch date from December 1st to December 13th. That in turn raised the question of possibly delaying the shipment of the spacecraft. After much discussion, the pros of proceeding with shipment won out over the cons. So, shortly after noon on Friday, October 25th, with 3 days of packing and loading completed, the ground transport truck carrying the SORCE hardware, and a support vehicle, left OSC for the relatively short jaunt to Coco Beach, Florida. The transport crew had an uneventful trip and arrived at KSC facilities early Saturday morning (October 26th) after an all night drive. They were met by the other members of the SORCE team that had flown in the previous evening and proceeded to unload, unpack, and set up operations in a Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF) located in the KSC Industrial Park. After setup, various functional and operations tests and final mechanical closeout activities were performed. All post-ship functional verifications were nominal and on November 5th, the spacecraft was safed for temporary storage (anticipated to last less than two weeks) and the team dispersed to take a short well deserved break. The SORCE program had received notification that the launch vehicle rework had been successfully completed and that the targeted December 13th launch date looked achievable. The next major activity is mating of the spacecraft with the launch vehicle.
On November 6th, the SORCE management and system engineering folks traveled to Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to participate in a high level Mission Readiness Review (MRR). Once again, more late breaking news indicated that there was yet another launch vehicle concern which centered around the mechanical integrity of on-board critical function actuators. This discovery has subsequently grounded the entire Pegasus fleet of launch vehicles and will take approximately three weeks (in SORCE’s case) to resolve. All current indications are that this will now push the SORCE launch into the late January time frame, primarily due to conflicts with previously scheduled launches. The planned ferry of the SORCE launch vehicle from processing facilities at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, currently scheduled for November 9th, has been canceled. A revised launch schedule will be evolved over the next few weeks as the launch vehicle status becomes better known and windows of opportunity at KSC have been explored. A delta-MRR will be held at a TBD date to review the resolution of these late-breaking issues and determine readiness for pursuing a new launch opportunity. In the meantime, the SORCE team will continue to run planned launch and mission operations rehearsals to fine tune preparations for launch and early ops commissioning support.«Return to the Meetings/News page