NASA STS Recordation
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Kennedy Space Center, Florida – 13 April 2012
Today is April 13, 2012. This interview with Stephanie Stilson is
being conducted for the NASA STS Recordation Oral History Project
at Kennedy Space Center. The interviewer is Jennifer Ross-Nazzal,
assisted by Rebecca Wright.
Thanks again for taking time. I know it’s a busy, busy week.
welcome. Yes, exciting.
With the ferry coming up and everything.
Yes, your first offload.
So we have gone through the process of setting up the wind restraint
system, and, gosh, what an immense undertaking. I didn’t even
realize the complexity of it until I got there. For the largest crane
that we have, which is a 650-ton crane, 60 flatbed trucks’ worth
of equipment just to set up the crane itself. Of course, we don’t
build the crane. The crane vendor that we hired does that. Just to
see all that equipment out there on this big apron out in the middle
of [Washington] Dulles [International Airport, Virginia] was a pretty
neat thing to see.
We, right now, are at the point where we have set up the wind restraint
system, which includes the masts and the taglines and the winches
that are going to allow us to ensure we have no unwanted movement
of the Orbiter when we’re doing the offload of Discovery and
the onload of Enterprise. So that’s all out there. We actually
call it the concrete island because that’s what it feels like,
because where we have to go to get out to our work location is all
controlled airfield space. We meet in a parking lot, we all pile into
vans together, and then we go through security and have to wind our
way through the taxiways and runways. It takes about 15 minutes to
get from the gate out to what we call the island, which is Apron W
at Dulles International Airfield.
We brought in trailers, port-a-johns, power generators, so it’s
like being on an island. You have to stage everything that you need
right there. So everybody brings their lunch. We don’t leave
the island for lunch. We stay there, but we’ve gotten to the
point now over the past four weeks, of having everything ready to
go except for finishing up with the cranes. There are two big cranes.
The aft crane is the larger of the two cranes. That’s the one
they’re still building up right now. Once that’s complete,
then we can start assembling the sling, which is our responsibility,
and so that hopefully starts tomorrow. Most likely, we will work Sunday,
which we were not planning to do, so that we can be ready by Monday
to actually do a confidence run.
We’ll use the whole wind restraint system, the sling, the cranes,
and actually practice lifting the sling up, setting the sling down
and so forth, just to prove that we’re ready to go on Wednesday—Discovery
will arrive on Tuesday and then Wednesday will be the offload activities.
So it’s moving quickly. It’s been a year and a half that
I’ve been involved with this, and it seemed so far off, and
now it’s just coming at such a fast pace it’s really incredible.
Yes, it’s amazing. So you have a lot of USA [United Space Alliance]
people up there?
our team is approximately 45 people, the majority United Space Alliance
workers. I do have a handful of NASA support. I have a couple engineers,
quality, and safety. So, as usual, how we always operate, you have
a big conglomerate of the contractor and then a small group of the
You guys had actually tried out the system, I think, last year?
We did a dry run here, yes, at the Shuttle Landing Facility [SLF].
We did the same thing. Basically, to set up the wind restraint system
you have four masts, and each mast has a winch and taglines. All those
things have to be anchored into the concrete, and so we actually did
that out at the SLF to ensure that we could secure them. Now that
the system is all set up at Dulles, we proof-load it to make sure
that everything’s going to hold. We also have to put a tie-down
point for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft [SCA] and that’s drilled
into the concrete as well so that when we roll in the Shuttle Carrier
Aircraft, we can hook up to the nose landing gear. The tie down points
ensures that the SCA doesn’t move it all while we’re doing
We were just talking with one of the SCA guys who mentioned that you’ve
got to tie that nose down. Otherwise you start to lift that plane
up, which I thought was interesting. I hadn’t thought of it
So you’ll be landing then on Tuesday? You’re going to
be in the Pathfinder?
I’m fortunate enough that I get to travel in the Pathfinder.
We’ll be landing 30 minutes ahead of the SCA , maybe a little
more than that, because I don’t think the Pathfinder’s
going to do the flyovers, so we’ll be in the Apron W area when
the SCA lands at Dulles. Actually, we start work right away. If we
plan to land around 10:30 or so my team will be there waiting for
Discovery to arrive.
The first day’s activities are not within the wind restraint
system. The SCA will be parked outside of the wind restraint system,
and we will use aerial manlifts to get up to the attach points where
the sling attaches to the Orbiter. We have to install what they call
cups and liners, so basically get those attach points prepared for
attaching the sling.
The other thing we’ll do that day is we’ll go ahead and
loosen the bolts that hold the Orbiter onto the 747, so we won’t
completely disconnect it but we’ll loosen those up because they’re
at a very high torque. So we’ll loosen those up, and by that
time the day’s over. That will take us six to eight hours.
Then we’ll look to start bright and early, five a.m., the next
day, the 18th, and that’s the real day. That’s offload
day, so that’s at least 12 hours, if everything goes well, where
we actually go through the process of bringing the SCA within the
wind restraint system; lowering the sling; attaching the sling to
the Orbiter; disconnecting the Orbiter from the SCA; lifting the Orbiter
off the SCA; backing the SCA out; lowering the Orbiter down so that
we can reach up and connect up to our hydraulic connections points;
lower the landing gear and then lower the vehicle down to weight on
wheels. At the conclusion of the 18th, we should be done with those
tasks, and that would be a very good day to have that all behind us.
Then are you passing at that point off to the [Smithsonian National]
Air and Space Museum [Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia],
or are you taking it in?
We actually will be responsible for towing Discovery over to the Udvar-Hazy
Center space hangar, so we will do that the morning of the 19th, which
I believe is Thursday. Yes, Thursday morning. There’s actually
a gate that separates Dulles from Udvar-Hazy Center, because it’s
right next to Dulles. So we will tow over to that gate, and we will
wait at that gate for the ceremony to start.
So there’s a ceremony, a huge ceremony that’s going on,
and the first thing that happens in the ceremony is we tow Discovery
up close to the stage. Enterprise is already going to be there. We
will have sent people in early in the morning to bring Enterprise
out of the hangar. Enterprise right now is sitting in the hangar exactly
where Discovery is going to sit when we swap the vehicles. So we will
have moved Enterprise out. It’ll be standing by ready to go,
and we will bring Discovery up to the stage where the ceremony will
They’re doing a nose-to-nose shot with Discovery and Enterprise.
Although they will be staggered—because you have the tow bar
and the tow vehicle, the tug—but if you are looking straight
on, it will look as if Discovery and Enterprise are touching noses.
So it’s kind of the ceremonial handing over the baton between
the two vehicles. There’s a great ceremony that Smithsonian
has set up.
Then once the ceremony is over, we will move Enterprise back out of
the way, bring Discovery into the space hangar, get it located in
the space hangar, and then we’ll be prepared to take Enterprise
out to Apron W. At that point we start the onload process with Enterprise.
So although we’re going to get to enjoy the celebration, we
must immediately get back to work. There’s not much rest for
us before we’re done with this process.
Then you’re taking Enterprise up how many days later?
So then we plan to ferry Enterprise on the 23rd. So on the 20th is
when we will do the onload operation, which is very similar to the
offload, just in reverse. So that’s a full day, 12-hour day,
and then we’ll look to have the 21st, that’s a Saturday,
to be the post-ops [operations] day to wrap things up.
Sunday will be a stand-down crew rest day, and then on Monday the
23rd we’ll look to ferry up to JFK [John F. Kennedy International
Airport, New York]. We don’t actually immediately start the
offload of Enterprise when we get up there because we have all that
equipment still down at Dulles. The wind restraint system has to be
broken down, packed up, and shipped up to JFK. We have to set all
the equipment up again. It took us almost a month to do that at Dulles,
so it will take us approximately the same amount of time to do it
at JFK before we’re ready to offload.
So although the SCA with Enterprise will be at JFK, it will be parked
inside a de-icing tent that the airfield uses when they need to de-ice
their planes. It will be out of the weather somewhat but not totally.
It’s still open, so it’s not environmentally controlled
by any means. With Enterprise on top of the 747, the vertical stabilizer
of the orbiter is so high you can’t even get it all the way
underneath the cover. So the vertical stabilizer s of the Orbiter
and the 747 will be sticking out of the back of the tent, but it’s
the best that we can do in that configuration, and we’ve done
that before in the past during nominal ferry flights where we’ve
had to stay somewhere overnight. They’ve pulled it into a hangar
and had the tail sticking out.
So Enterprise on top of the SCA will sit there and wait for us to
get everything pulled together, ready to go, and then we’ll
do the offload. The offload of Enterprise will be a little bit different
than the offload of Discovery based on the fact that Smithsonian wants
Discovery to be weight on wheels, in other words on its landing gear,
just as it is at landing. So that’s the process that we will
take to put Discovery into the configuration that the Smithsonian
wants. Enterprise is actually going to be, at least initially, in
order to get it to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum [New York,
New York], in a configuration to barge down the Hudson [River].
So to prepare for barging, Intrepid wants us to offload Enterprise
onto a transporter that they are building that actually uses spare
SCA attach points. So, basically, we will lift the Enterprise up off
of the SCA, back the SCA out, bring in their transporter and then
lower Enterprise down onto those attach points, just as if we were
lowering it onto the SCA. So the process is the same, but then once
we get it on their transporter, at that point in time NASA’s
involvement is done. We will have secured it on the transporter, turned
it over to Intrepid, and they are then responsible for moving their
transporter. Intrepid is going to store it there for a while because
they cannot barge until they get the lowest tide, and low tide is
in the early June timeframe. So they’ll sit there for a couple
of weeks and then they put Enterprise on the barge and move it up
the Hudson. We will be bystanders at that point in time, which will
be a little odd, a major operation with Orbiters and we’re not
involved. So that is a little bit hard for some of us to swallow,
but that’s the way it is.
Last time we talked a little bit about processing the Orbiters, getting
them ready. Discovery, she’s ready to go.
to go, buttoned up.
In the VAB [Vehicle Assembly Building]. You told me a little bit about
how you had planned to process her, but I read that there were some
changes along the way. Can you talk about that?
actual safing process did not change, going through and removing all
those hazardous commodities off of the vehicle stayed the same. What
did change is we had the Space Launch Systems [SLS] program that has
come about within NASA that needs and wants to use a lot of the main
propulsion system hardware out of the Orbiters. They wanted it out
of all three of the Orbiters, and they did get hardware out of Discovery.
The difference is because Discovery is the vehicle of record, Smithsonian
obviously wanted to keep it as flight-like as they could, and so they
negotiated with NASA to not take as many components out of Discovery
as we’re going to take out of Endeavour and Atlantis. So although
some things came out, the vast majority of the aft compartment of
Discovery is intact.
With Endeavour and Atlantis that will not be the case. We’re
taking out the large 17-inch feed lines, and many other smaller components.
Pretty much the entire main propulsion system is going to come out.
So when we’re done with that, and we’re working on that
right now, you’ll basically look into the aft compartment and
it’ll be empty, which will be an odd sight. I think it will
be very similar to what we talked last time regarding the orbital
maneuvering system [OMS] pods and the forward reaction control system.
How we are gutting those modules and how on the outside they looked
perfect, as if they had just landed, but on the inside everything
is gone. It’ll be basically the same for the aft of Endeavour
So we’re in the process of doing that on both vehicles right
now, and we’re still doing some safing activities, and then
eventually we will get into some display activities as well. Display
activities are configuring the vehicle in the way that the particular
museum wants it configured. There are certain things that they have
asked us to do to configure the orbiter. That’s pretty much
a small subset of the work compared to the safing and removing the
I think last time you told me that some of the museums might want
the galleys, they might want the potties. Have some of them requested
those remain outside the vehicle?
In fact, both California Science Center [Los Angeles] and the Visitors
Center here at Kennedy have requested that, and, in fact, we have
already shipped the galley and the potty to California Science Center.
They actually already have the components, because they come out relatively
early in the processing flow, but then they have to go back to Houston
[Texas, NASA Johnson Space Center] to be decommissioned or reserviced,
and then we shipped them back here to KSC and then to California.
So that’s been done.
Something that happened just recently with Endeavour is after Endeavour
landed, we always have to go remove the flight tires, and we had removed
those and did the testing that we had to do to make sure that everything
was okay. Then we reinstalled the STS-134 tires back onto Endeavour.
In the course of our discussions with the California Science Center,
because they’re planning to display with their landing gear
closed, they asked if they could have those actual flight tires to
display separately. No problem. We have plenty of what we call roll-around
tires, or RATs, which are previously flown tires, so we just recently
swapped tires. To you and I looking at them, you can’t tell
a 134 tire versus another tire, but they want to be able to show people
these are the actual tires used on Endeavour’s final landing.
So we’re happy to do things like that. We try to keep that type
of work within scope, because obviously it takes additional cost and
time to do that. Now, the museum, in the case of the California Science
Center, is paying for that, so they can choose to say, “Hey,
even though you’re telling us it’s additional money, we’d
like you to do it.” But we try to minimize that. If there are
a lot of things they want to do after they get the vehicle, they’re
more than welcome to do that, but some of those things they can’t
do. Obviously, they can’t go pull off the landing gear tires,
so we’re more than happy to help them out with that.
Tell me about powering down the vehicle. It seemed to be a big deal
here at KSC. What happens when you power down the vehicle, and what
do you have to do after that?
funny, because we—I shouldn’t say we celebrate, because
it’s not celebrate, but we focus on the final power-down, but
in reality, it’s the final power-up, because it’s the
last time you power the vehicle up that day. There are certain things
in the course of our processing that require the vehicle to be powered,
and so we had to get through all those activities. Then there’s
another set of activities that after completed prevent the vehicle
from being powered up. For instance, we’re having to go through
and drain all the Freon out of the Freon cooling system. There are
two loops for redundancy. Once you do that with both loops, you can
no longer power up the vehicle, because it generates so much heat
you would immediately start affecting the avionics boxes adversely.
So we de-serviced the first Freon loop relatively early in the processing
flow because we could operate on the second one. Then you get to the
point where you’re done with all your power activities, then
you power down that final time, and now you can go de-service the
final loop. So that’s basically what the celebration is about.
In the course of the processing flow, a great amount of work was done
to get to the point where we can power down for the final time. For
us it was more of, “We’re powering this vehicle down for
the final time.” That’s not something any of us really
ever thought about doing, and it is a very unique situation to see
the glass cockpit, the MEDS, the multifunction electronic display
system, powered up and to see those displays. Once you realize that’s
never going to be possible again, then it is kind of a hard thing
to swallow. We did focus a lot on that being a major milestone for
The way we get around that is that we have some high-[resolution]
digital images that are basically taped on those displays. I saw a
picture of Discovery that had that, and you really can’t tell
that it’s not the actual image. So it’s good to do that,
because so far we’ve had two media days where we actually allowed
media representatives to go into Discovery and then into Endeavour,
and we were not powered up. It’s not smart, when you’re
going to have people coming in and out of the vehicle, to have it
powered, because you could accidentally hit a switch that could cause
problems. They were disappointed because they wanted to see it, but
with these taped-up images that we put on there, it looked real. We
did the best we could to accommodate and give them the best experience
we could, but for safety purposes and for the safety of the vehicle,
it didn’t make sense to have it powered up at the time.
So, yes, we’ve had the final power-down, obviously, Discovery,
and then also I think we’ve had the final power-down on Endeavour
as well. I haven’t been following. Because of everything that’s
going on with being prepared for the offload, I haven’t had
the opportunity to follow as closely along with the processing for
Endeavour and Atlantis. Fortunately, I have people to help me that
do that, so they definitely have their thumb on it and they know what’s
Ironically, it’s probably a good thing that Discovery retired
first, because Discovery is my baby. I really wanted to be a part
of those activities going on with Discovery. I care a great deal about
Endeavour and Atlantis, but not quite as much as Discovery. I’ve
been fortunate that we went through some of those major milestones
along the way with Discovery, and I was able to be a part of it. I
was not there when they powered down Discovery the final time. I was
actually on TDY [temporary duty]. I believe we were at a display site
working with either California or New York so I did not get to say
my final goodbye before she powered down for the last time, but Bart
did. Bart Pannullo is my right-hand man, and he was actually the last
one to come out of the ship before they closed the hatch, so he was
there for that. I was glad for him to get to do that.
We’ve talked about this before. We’ve kind of likened
it to having a child, right? And we’ve talked about the fact
that it seems like you’re sending your child off to college.
You think about missing the dance recital or sometime things that
come up in your work life and you have to miss a softball game or
whatnot, that’s really how I felt about it. “Well, I really
just can’t be there but Bart’s there. He’s taking
care of her and everything will be fine, but I really wish I could
have been there too.” But I’ve gotten to see and do a
lot of great things, so I’ve been very blessed so far.
We also talked last time about the fact that you were starting having
to work things like contracts.
You’re having to contract out and get people to work the de-servicing
of the Orbiters and facilities as well.
So how many people did you end up getting on your team?
still have about a hundred people on the team total, which is what
we expected, and that’s total for working all three vehicles.
So a much smaller team than when we were processing them for spaceflight,
obviously. But in a way that’s good because you need that consistency
among the three vehicles for what we’re doing because we’re
overlapping that work quite a bit.
In the ideal process, we would do everything serial. I would process
Discovery first, learn all those lessons and then process the next
one. But obviously from a time constraint, that would send your schedule
way out, so we are doing a lot of things in parallel. In a way, having
that smaller team helps, because they do share those experiences across
the vehicles and can easily adapt from one to the other, depending
on what they come across as they’re doing that work. So it’s
been good. I think we have the right number. There’s always
times where you wish you had another person to help out or the person
you thought was going to help out took another job, and so now maybe
it’s not the best person but they’re going to get up to
speed and they’re going to do a good job as well.
Just like any other project, any other program, we’re going
through that, maybe a little bit more than normal because of the layoffs
and because of the fact that the Shuttle program is coming to an end
very quickly. That’s made it more difficult, I’ll say
it that way; it is not that we can’t do it, but it does make
it more difficult when you lose key people that you thought you were
going to have. And you can’t blame them. They take other jobs
and have other opportunities, and they have to look out for themselves
and their families. As a team lead, I would love to keep everybody
that I consider my A-team. I’d love to always have my A-team.
Everybody would. Sometimes you don’t always get that opportunity.
Everybody has been stepping up and doing a good job, and it’s
a hard thing for United Space Alliance to manage. They’re in
a tough position themselves, so it’s hard for us to be very
critical of them because they’ve done such a wonderful job with
the situation that they’ve been dealt.
Have there been other challenges along the way as you’ve been
working on this, besides personnel issues?
know, the processing of the vehicles has gone really well, better
than I expected. I thought that we might stumble upon more challenges
along the way, and it’s actually been the smoothest part. The
biggest challenge has been the contract side and getting on contract
to do work. We were used to operating in the Space Shuttle program
where we had one big contract and never really had to worry about
whether what we were doing was in scope of that contract or not, where
now the way we operate, the very first question I have to look at
anytime someone comes up with a new requirement or something they
want to do is does that fall within scope of a contract, and most
of the times the answer is no. So that means if you really want to
go do that, we have to go amend that contract or put a new contract
in place and that takes time. That takes a lot of time.
Everything ends up having a ripple effect of what you have to do to
get through contracts, to get through procurement and so forth, whereas,
I’ll call it the real world outside of the Space Shuttle program,
people deal with that every day. I’ve never had to deal with
that, and so it’s been a great experience in the fact of learning,
but it’s also been very frustrating because we were so used
to, “Okay, we need to go change out this black box?” “Then
go change out that black box.” There’s no need to go talk
contracts. We have a contract in place. We have scope to do the work.
That’s been difficult in dealing with the contractor, not that
they’re making it difficult. Really I think most of the difficulty
happens more on our side than on their side, but there’s that
negotiation. We give them a statement of work. They come back with
a plan and a dollar figure associated with that. We review that, and
we come back with a government estimate that’s never the same.
It’s usually less. So then we get into the negotiations of what
is that true number, what should it be? And we have an obligation
to save the government money, so if we really feel like it should
not cost as much as the contractor is suggesting it costs, it’s
our job to ensure it doesn’t. We are stewards of the country’s
money, so we need to be diligent.
Like I said, I’ve learned a lot and I think it’s been
a great experience, but it’s definitely been the more frustrating
part of it. I’d love to just process Space Shuttles. I’d
love to manage a schedule and get a vehicle ready to fly, and there
are other not-so-much-fun things that go with it as well.
Has that had an impact on your schedule because of these ripple effects
with the contract?
some cases, yes, we’ve had to delay things. We haven’t
had anything that has impacted a major milestone, like delivery of
a vehicle, but our internal milestones along the way have been affected.
But that’s part of what we do. In the past, I would say we would
have done that manipulating of a schedule and changing of plans based
on a technical issue, where now we may do the same type of thing,
but it’s based on a contractual issue. So, okay, we wanted to
start on April 1st. Well, guess what? We’re not going to be
on contract until May lst. What do we do to go work more efficiently,
change the schedule, or cut back on the requirement? There are a lot
of different options and things that we look at when faced with those
Did you meet the milestone goal for completing Discovery on time?
we did. Actually, we were ready with Discovery earlier than we initially
planned, and we went over to the Vehicle Assembly Building earlier
than we had targeted. The main reason for doing that was to get out
of the way so that Endeavour could get back into process. We had had
Endeavour sitting over in the Vehicle Assembly Building waiting for
her turn to get back in the Orbiter Processing Facility [OPF]. So
the sooner we were finished with Discovery, the sooner we could get
back started on Endeavour. It wasn’t because we were going to
deliver Discovery any earlier. We had already set that date, and that
wasn’t something we wanted to change, but it really did help
to keep moving on Endeavour because with her in the VAB we were not
doing work on Endeavour that we needed to do in the OPF.
How long did it take you to finish her and get her ready to go?
gosh, I’d have to pull the schedule. You mean my total time
time in processing, let’s look at this. I don’t have my
glasses on. Look, see, I’ve already flipped the page and Discovery’s
on the second page now because she’s done.
She’s done. She’s ready to go.
Let’s see. We landed in March, right? Beginning of March? And
we rolled over and we were ready to ferry at beginning of March, so
a full year. In fact, right at a year from landing, I believe it was.
That’s right, the 9th. I remember someone saying that, “Do
you realize today was the one-year anniversary of landing?”
So right at a year.
When you are talking about a year-long schedule, a week or two difference
is pretty good. We thought we were going to be about—a half
a week later was our original target, so I’m pretty proud of
the team for making it that close to the original schedule. We talked
about how we didn’t change a lot of the requirements on Discovery
like we are doing on Atlantis and Endeavour. So those schedules have
changed quite a bit, significantly, but it’s because we added
new requirements, and that’s always the case. If you add new
requirements, mostly likely your schedule is going to have to slip,
because it’s that whole concept of putting 10 pounds of potatoes
in a 5-pound bag. It just doesn’t work. Something has to give.
So in some cases we can hold the schedule for major things, and other
times we just can’t do it and that’s been the case with
Endeavour and Atlantis. We haven’t had to move major milestones,
at least recently, for Endeavour and Atlantis, but when we added the
removal of the main propulsion system hardware that did slip us out.
But that’s something that we worked through the program, and
everybody agrees, because now you’re operating with two programs.
You have the SLS program and the Space Shuttle program, so they have
to agree that, okay, if we’re going to go take this hardware
out of the vehicle, who’s going to pay for it and who’s
going to pay for the effect of the schedule, and so that took quite
a bit of time. My role in that is to lay out the plan, lay out the
schedule, show what the impact is, and then the business office side
comes up with the cost associated with that and then we go to the
program and pitch the plan. The two programs came to an agreement
that it was a smart thing to do from an agency perspective to allow
us to share this hardware with the SLS program.
Has your team of one hundred been working regular eight-to-five hours,
or have they been working around the clock?
the most part, we work five days a week, eight-hour days. Now there
are some instances, depending on the activity, where we may go longer
days, 10 hours, 12 hours. We have worked some Saturdays and Sundays,
but not many, just here and there, once again based on how an operation
needed to work. For instance, when we were removing OMS pods before
they were de-serviced, they were still hazardous. So we clear not
only your processing bay, but that entire building during the removal
of the pods. That’s a task that you don’t want to do on
a weekday because then you’ve got a bunch of people displaced
from their offices. So something like that we would plan for a Saturday
so that we can minimize how many people we affect by the operation.
There’s been a handful of instances like that, but not too many.
Then, of course, now that we’re working at Dulles, we work 6/10
[6 days a week/10 hours a day]. We started out with 6/8s. It depends
on the work that we’re doing, but once again we’re able
to go 6/10s if we need to and then, for offload it’s at least
12 hours, and we may work Sundays. When we’re offsite, we have
a little more freedom to work longer hours and more days just because
of the sheer cost of working remotely, paying all those folks TDY
money and so forth.
We always have to be careful that we don’t overwork anyone and
that it’s not taxing the team too much. So we’re very,
very cognizant of that. For instance, this past week, we got our work
done pretty quickly and we were holding for the cranes, so we would
work short days. We had some things to do because the workforce is
there and they want to work, but they would go home after six hours
or after eight hours, and it was a very light day. So we try to keep
that in mind, that if we know a big operation’s coming up that’s
going to require long hours, we try to, a couple of days before that,
have very light workdays so that we can assure that they’re
properly rested and comfortable going into the hazardous operation.
What are you doing this weekend? Discovery, she’s getting towed?
Tomorrow morning, bright and early, 5:15, we should have first motion
out of the Vehicle Assembly Building, out to the SLF, and we’ll
immediately go into what we call our mate operations. So we will tow
Discovery into the mate-demate device. There’s a sling just
like the sling we’re going to use at Dulles inside the mate-demate
device that we lower down, connect to the Orbiter, and then we’re
able to raise the Orbiter up. They bring in the SCA, lower the Orbiter
down, attach it, disconnect the sling, and then we back out the entire
stack of SCA and Orbiter.
Tomorrow we’ll roll out, and we’ll immediately go into
those operations. Saturday is the big day. Saturday, we plan to get
soft-mated, and then hard-mated on Sunday. Then we’re going
to back out of the mate-demate device on Monday morning, not because
we have to, but because we want to give the employees an opportunity
to come out and take pictures and group photos. And, of course, media
will be out there. Everything, as usual, is pending weather. So as
long as weather’s good, Monday morning we’ll back out
of the MDD.
There’s some work that you have to do once you back the Orbiter
out from the mate-demate device. You have to pull window covers and
that’s about it on the Orbiter side. Then there are some things
we have to do on the mate-demate device side. There are some pieces
of hardware that we want take with us as spares for the operation
that is happening in Dulles, and we fly those pieces up on the Pathfinder.
So we have to go in and remove those components. If things go well,
Monday should be a very light day from a work perspective and will
give everybody the opportunity to have a really neat view of the Orbiter
sitting on top of the 747 before we take off Tuesday morning.
So what are your feelings now that she’s getting ready to leave?
I know you said it wasn’t such a big deal that last mission,
You know, I think I’m still in the mode of it hasn’t yet
hit me, and I still don’t think it will just yet. I go right
from working on Discovery and getting Discovery into the space hangar
to taking Enterprise to New York and getting her offloaded, and then
I’ll come back to Kennedy. The more I think about it, I think
that’s when it will hit me, when I get back here and realize
I can’t walk into that Orbiter Processing Facility and see Discovery
whenever I want, or into the Vehicle Assembly Building when she’s
there and see her whenever I want. I think that’s when the realization
to me is going to hit of, “Wow, she’s gone. She’s
no longer a part of our immediate family here.”
It will be an odd feeling. I really don’t know how I’ll
feel. I know I’ll be sad, but I think more it’ll be just
an odd feeling. I think that’s the best way I can describe it,
is just odd, because it’s been such a big part of my life for
so many years. Not to say that I’ve taken it for granted, but
you sort of do, right? When you know you have the freedom to walk
over and see a Space Shuttle whenever you want, that’s a really
neat thing to do, and we’re going to miss being able to do that.
So what will happen, though, is it will allow me to, I think, put
some more emotion into Endeavour and Atlantis because I’ve not
had strong ties with those vehicles because they were not the vehicle
that I was assigned to. Maybe with Discovery being away, now my attention
can go more towards those vehicles and I can get to appreciate them
even more. I have started doing that and it’s been neat to learn
some of the things about the other vehicles and be a part of that
and give myself an opportunity to think about all the great things
that those vehicles did as well.
I think that is how it’s going to play out. Now, I may feel
differently when I leave the space hangar before we head to New York,
so that could be an opportunity for some emotion too. The team will
still be actively working on Discovery to get it ready, so it will
still seem like a work environment, because working in the space hangar
at the Udvar-Hazy Center is somewhat similar to being in an OPF. We’re
going to be removing the tail cone and repositioning engines and going
into the crew module, so it’s going to feel similar to previous
When you come back, you’re going to take over processing vehicles?
when I come back then the focus will be on getting Endeavour ready
to go out in September and then Atlantis ready to go in November.
So I’ll still be busy, but there will be a little bit of a lull
compared to how it has been, just in the sheer fact of dropping from
four Orbiters to two. But my focus will be on all the preparations
and things that have to happen to not only get Endeavour, the vehicle
itself, ready, but the preparations out at Los Angeles, the things
that we’re now doing at Dulles that we’ll need to do at
LAX [Los Angeles International Airport, California].
We’ve already been working that. We’ve had two site visits
to LAX. We’ll have another site visit probably in the July timeframe,
and that will be the final time where we sit down with all the key
players from LAX. I will give the same presentation I’ve given
five or six times now, but once again to look them in the eye and
say, “You understand what we’re doing. We’re going
to go drill 200 holes into your concrete, we’re going to put
up these masts, we’re going to bring in a 650-ton crane and
a 250-ton crane with booms that extend out to 175 feet. This is the
final time for us to all look at each other and to hear them say,
‘Yes, we understand, and we’re okay with what you want
All the airfields have been very supportive and helpful. I was a little
bit nervous at the first site visit for each one, each one meaning
Los Angeles, JFK, and Dulles, because it just seemed like there was
a lot of head nodding, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” I’m
thinking, “Okay, they’re not fully understanding, because
I expected I’d have more questions or at least somebody saying,
‘Well, wait a minute. Is that really going to be a good idea
for us to allow you to do that?’”
But after holding three site visits at each location I felt much better.
It gave them a chance to digest what we had said to them, ask questions,
and then, of course, we work with them outside of those site visits.
We’re in contact with them from here, asking questions and sending
drawings, and they send us drawings. So by the time we were done with
the meetings in Dulles and JFK, I felt very confident that everybody
was on the same page and understood the undertaking that we were about
You’re going to fill in the concrete, right?
We go in and we fill in all the holes, yes. It’ll be just as
good as it was when we got there. That’s the plan.
It’s my understanding that Endeavour is supposed to be pulled
from LAX through downtown L.A.?
we decided at the last site visit was that when we go through the
offload operation for Endeavour, similar to New York, we will load
Endeavour onto a transporter. Now, the difference with this transporter
is we have given California Science Center a transporter that we have
used in the Shuttle program before. It’s called the overland
transporter. Basically, it was used back when we would move vehicles
from Palmdale [California] to Edwards [Air Force Base, California],
and so we have pictures that actually show the use of it. Basically,
it’s a beam with attach points on it. It can be pulled by a
semi truck of some sort, the way that we did it in the Space Shuttle
program back in the eighties.
The attach points are basically the same as the SCA attach points,
so once we get the Orbiter off the SCA and move the SCA out of the
way, we’ll bring in the overland transporter and we will lower
Endeavour down on top of the overland transporter and secure it there.
At that point in time, we spend about a week doing the final preparations
for turning Endeavour over to the California Science Center. This
includes removing the tailcone, repositioning the engine nozzles,
closing the vent doors, and installing the Orbiter Maneuvering Engine
nozzles. The transport of Endeavour from LAX to the California Science
Center will be managed by the California Science Center and their
What I think you’re referring to with the overland transporter
is that SCS is going to use self-propelled motorized transporters
under this overland transporter. They’re somewhat modifying
the overland transporter to support these independently operatable
mobilized units. The reason for that, as opposed to using a tractor-trailer,
is because of the precise movement that has to happen during the course
of the 12 miles that Endeavour has to travel from Los Angeles International
Airport to the California Science Center. The route is through city
streets of Inglewood and Los Angeles. During our first site visit
at LAX, we drove the route. We’ve seen where they have to take
down streetlights and telephone poles and, in some cases, trees, and
there’s actually one section that they have to maneuver through
where there is less than an inch from each wingtip to a wall. I don’t
mean a wall that you can remove, but a building wall, a structure.
That’s why the California Science Center wants to use these
mobilized units, because they can move in any direction very minutely
to work their way through the route.
That is going to be quite an undertaking for them. It’s 12 miles.
It will take them two days to complete because they’ll have
to move so slowly. And if you think about it, it’s hard enough
to do that, but then you’re also going to have a huge number
of people lining the streets to watch. I envision it being similar
to a parade route. I expect hundreds of thousands of people are going
to be staged there to watch this move. You have that complexity of
now managing the crowd on top of having to manage moving a vehicle.
So whether it’s luckily or unluckily enough, my team is not
a part of that operation, but we will be anxious for them to be successful
and for everything to go very well. Of course, we’ve helped
them along the way giving advice for how to go about moving the vehicle
and consulted them, but there is no responsibility from NASA for the
Will you have more close ties with the KSC Visitors Center, being
that you’re right here?
will. That is the easiest of all the moves, really, because we’re
just going to move it on our Orbiter transport system down the road.
Now, granted, they’ll have to move a fence, and there are some
things that have to be coordinated. It’s not just a quick and
easy thing to do, but compared to the other moves, it will take a
lot less preparation to accomplish.
The thing that’s unique about Atlantis is Delaware North [Companies
Parks and Resorts], who is the contractor to NASA, that runs the Visitors
Complex, will be contracting directly with United Space Alliance to
prepare the vehicle to do the display preparation in the Orbiter Processing
Facility. I will continue to manage that work. It’s just that
I won’t be responsible for the contract that manages that work.
The NASA organization that runs the Visitors Complex looks to me to
oversee the operations on Atlantis to make sure everything goes well,
but if I have any concerns, I will then work them back through a separate
NASA organization, who will then work it through their contractor,
the United Space Alliance. So it’s a bit different. We haven’t
done anything like that before. USA will follow all of our same operating
procedures and all of our same rules, so it will be somewhat transparent
when we’re actually doing the work. It’s the contract
side that will be a little bit different. United Space Alliance is
under contract with Delaware North already, and so they’re putting
plans in place and plan to start some of this display work the middle
of this month, so they should be getting started pretty quickly.
So when will officially T&R [transition and retirement] stop for
we deliver Atlantis, which is the mid-November timeframe, when we
get it to the Visitors Complex, then my job is done. And I have to
figure out what I’m going to do next. I have to figure that
out before then, but, yes, that’s where my work with the Orbiters
will end. Now, there could be something within the transition retirement
efforts that are not Orbiter-related that I may be able to help with
at that point in time. Our office doesn’t go away when the vehicles
are done because there’s still facility work, equipment removal,
and records disposal that isn’t yet complete. So there may be
an area that I can help out with, or I may do something completely
In fact, the conversation that I had with my supervisor when you were
waiting was talking about, “You need to start thinking about
what you’re going to do next. You’ve got to start answering
some questions as to where you’re going to be.” Not really
something I want to think about right now, but it’s not the
first time he’s told me I have to start thinking about it, so
I need to start doing that.
I’m going to ask Rebecca if she’s got any questions for
do have one. You mentioned about going or having Discovery being processed
once it’s inside of the hangar.
you will be involved with that?
long will that be?
delivering on the 19th, we look to be out of there by the end of the
month, so not too much work that has to be done. So the target right
now is to be done by the 30th. That includes removing the tail cone
and shipping it back to Kennedy since we have to use that tail cone
again for Endeavour’s ferry, then repositioning the engine nozzles,
because to put the tail cone on you have to tuck the nozzles. We’re
going to flare those back out, because Smithsonian wants Discovery
to look as if it had just landed. We will also reposition the vent
doors and install the orbital maneuvering system nozzles. There are
a handful of other things, but mainly just getting Discovery into
the final display position, jack and leveling it, because we have
to jack and level it to get the tail cone off and then put it back
down on its landing gear when all the work is complete.
There will be a small team that complete the hangar work. In fact,
I won’t be there for much of that since I have to leave on the
23rd to go up to New York. My backup, Bart Pannullo will be there
managing the work in the hangar and also the cleanup effort out on
Apron W. So he’ll be managing those while I’m up at JFK,
getting things set up and ready to go for the offload of Enterprise.
the real question I wanted to ask, how are you going to be in two
places at once.
have very capable help, which is good. I get the fun work of setting
up, delivering, and offloading. Bart gets to be there for offload,
the final orbiter work, and the site cleanup.
like a good plan.
Well, I think that that’s it for us, and I think that we did
it in less than 45 minutes.
great. Well, good. Thank you very much.
for filling in all those blanks.