Thursday, September 15, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part VI-Launch Pad 17

Wow, that last part certainly was a downer, it’s got to get better from here on out? Well you’d be wrong. For we went from one ending to another ending, the last planned launch at Launch Pad 17 of the second to last planned launch of a Delta II rocket. Well it sounds dire, but NASA purchases a run of rockets in advance based on what they think they will need in the future. Then missions are assigned to the rockets. The key word here is planned missions, in that currently there is no plans, but in the future there may be.

I suppose the real tragedy, if you consider sand and dirt a pollutant, is the erosion 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 123at the end of a road at the launch site. I’m surprised that the EPA isn’t out there posting signs for people to stand back from the pollutants along with lots fines proposed against NASA for violating the Clean Water Act for distributing harmful and dangerous pollutants into the nearby drainage conveyances, creeks and estuary's. Because this appears to be our nation’s priority. Keeping dirt out of waterways. If you think I’m joking keep this in mind at this time when home development is hurting storm water quality requirements are estimated to be costing the industry hundreds of millions of dollars that could be going to other projects keeping people employed. Best of it doesn’t cost the government anything.

Well I think 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 125that’s enough of a diversion for this post. Also at the site was the Delta II rocket that was going to send the GRAIL mission into space. While on the launch pad waiting for launch there is a support structure protecting the rocked. The support structure is rolled back hours before the launch. When the launch is delayed the structure is rolled back into place. For this mission it was rolled back at least twice. Once for the original launch target, and again for the eventual successful launch. As well as protecting the rocket it also provides access for the workers to check the rocket out and make any repairs.

At the launch facility 17 there are two launch pads, A and 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 135B. The launch pad on the left has already been deactivated. When the launch pad was more active they would have the capability to prep one rocket while they launched on the other launch pad. The launch pad is set up to separate the various fuels used during the launch. On the right side RP-1 fuel is stored. The RP-1 fuel is a form of kerosene and reacts with oxygen. Oxygen is stored on the left side of the pad. The oxygen is cryogenically 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 137stored in tanks. Due to the difficult nature of maintaining the temperature of the oxygen, it is required to be offloaded from the rocket for any launch aborts. This process appears to have hit some snags after the first aborted attempt, as additional inspections needed to be done for the GRAIL mission.

I found it interesting the number of cameras on the launch pad. NASA has a multitude cameras around the perimeter for security as well as the vibration activated cameras of the news services from around the world.

Additionally there seems to a rubber chicken following me around. From what I’ve been able t2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 153o find out it’s name is Camilla Corona. It’s a NASA employee whose job it is to spread information to school children around the world. I also have learned that the chicken is a frequent attendee of NASA Tweetup’s. I get the feeling the chicken gets preferential treatment in getting invited to these shin digs. Here she is taking a nap on the launch platform. I think the humidity and heat have gotten to her.

Next up we get presentations from various science celebrities.

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