Goddard Team Develops New Carriers for ISS

Nov 13, 2009 by Susan Hendrix
Engineers inspect one of the ExPRESS Logistics Carriers in the small clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Orbital Sciences Corporation

In a partnership that exemplifies the One NASA theme, Goddard Space Flight Center engineers teamed up with the External Payloads Group at Johnson Space Center and the ISS Payload Ground Processing support team at Kennedy Space Center to create the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC) Project.

The ELC is an un-pressurized attached payload project for the (ISS) that provides mechanical mounting surfaces, , and command and data handling services for science experiments on the ISS. ("ExPRESS" stands for Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station.)

Based at Goddard, this newly formed project designed, built and tested five unpressurized aluminum carriers and six avionics packages for bringing spare hardware and science to the ISS.

The ELCs have a deck size of about 14 feet by 16 feet and spans the width of the space shuttle’s payload bay. Each one is capable of providing scientists with a platform and infrastructure to deploy experiments in the vacuum of space without requiring a separate dedicated Earth-orbiting satellite. Each carrier is also capable of carrying 10,000 lbs. to orbit and will also serve as parking fixtures for spare ISS hardware which can be retrieved when needed.

Tackling Challenges Head On

In addition to an aggressive production schedule and nearly 800 ISS requirements, the newly formed ELC Project successfully tackled a multitude of issues that included technical challenges, limited funding, mass optimization, ongoing ISS operations, and the need to accommodate multiple payloads and science experiments on the same platform.

It took more than 100 engineers from Goddard, Johnson, Marshall and Kennedy Space Centers working together over a three-year period to complete this multi-million dollar project.

“Prior to Goddard’s involvement, Brazil’s efforts to design the avionics for the combined carrier proved too costly and bulky to implement,” said ELC Project Manager Kevin Carmack at Goddard. “Our experts solved the avionics issue by incorporating new technology including high data rate processing into the solution.”

Engineers from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Carriers Development Office at Goddard formed a large segment of this new organization, developing the unique ELC design, which incorporates elements of both types of science and spare hardware pallets. The mechanical challenge was to create the most efficient aluminum design ever flown in order to optimize the payload capability of the structure. The large platform needed to be extremely flat and the 250 holes had to be precisely drilled to allow engineers at KSC to integrate heavy payloads. Due of its prior expertise in building the cargo carriers for Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, Goddard served as the overall designer, integrator and manufacturer for the ELCs.

Adhering to an aggressive delivery schedule due to the pending shut down of the Shuttle program in 2010, engineers from Goddard and Johnson started design activities in early 2006. But as work on the ELC began, the integrated team quickly found themselves tackling a host of other challenges such as cultural barriers, which included differences in design philosophy, test programs, quality oversight and methods of systems verification.

The distance between Centers and across time zones also proved challenging when scheduling meetings and communicating issues or ideas. Foreign ISS customers, particularly Russia and Germany, presented language barriers as well as distance issues. According to Carmack, the Goddard ELC team viewed these issues as an opportunity to expand relationships, forging stronger partnerships in the process.

Goddard’s Contributions
The ELC Project engineers at Goddard fabricated the platforms, relying on expertise gleaned from many years of work on space shuttle hardware for missions such as Solar Maximum, Gamma Ray Observatory, Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, as well as five highly successful Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. They also assembled and integrated its components and provided the necessary test facilities, mechanical / electrical ground support equipment, and flight avionics.

The Center’s contributions seamlessly interfaced with Johnson’s government-furnished equipment for Shuttle and ISS electrical interfaces, structural grappling, and test facilities such as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and Kennedy’s mechanical ground support equipment for ground handling and launch site integration of the payloads and experiments. Goddard also worked very closely with Marshall Space Flight Center for implementation of their software development and pre-launch verification and checkout.

Furthering NASA’s Goals

Goddard’s ELC Project demonstrates the One NASA theme of making decisions for the common good through its inclusive, participatory philosophy.

“Team members from three Centers served on the Joint Review Board for major milestone reviews, implementing decisions that required cross-Center participation,” said Carmack.

By distributing work among the core competencies of each Center, the ELC Project exemplified how NASA Centers can effectively work together, particularly in the areas of systems engineering, safety, on-orbit operations, reliability and project management.

Four ELCs will be delivered to the ISS before the scheduled retirement of the space shuttle. Two ELCs will be attached to the ISS on the starboard truss 3 and two ELCs will be attached to the port truss via the space shuttle’s robotic arm.

ELCs 1 and 2 are scheduled on the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-129 mission slated for November 16. ELC4 will fly aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-134 ULF6 mission in July 2010, while ELC3 will be carried to the ISS aboard the Shuttle Endeavour for the ULF5 mission in September 2010.

For more information about this unique new carrier, go to: NASA ELC mission page

Provided by JPL/ (news : web)

Explore further: Student to live in simulated space habitat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hubble astronauts begin training

Feb 13, 2007

The U.S. astronauts selected for the next servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope are beginning their training this week.

NASA Updates Shuttle Target Launch Date for Hubble Mission

Jun 07, 2007

NASA managers officially are targeting Sept. 10, 2008, for the launch of the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day flight, Atlantis' seven astronauts will repair ...

NASA gets ready for another space mission

Mar 31, 2008

Now that the latest space shuttle Endeavour mission is completed, the U.S. space agency said it's preparing for the May launch of space shuttle Discovery.

NASA Sends Dextre to Fix the Hubble

Aug 11, 2004

NASA has decided to try to save the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by sending a Canadian-made robot Dextre to fix it, agency officials say. Dextre - formally the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator - is a ...

Station, Shuttle Mission Crew Announced

May 16, 2005

NASA and its international partners have named new crew members for upcoming missions to the International Space Station (ISS). U.S. astronaut William S. McArthur, Jr. and Russian Cosmonaut Valery I. Tokarev will serve on ...

Recommended for you

Student to live in simulated space habitat

2 hours ago

A Purdue University industrial engineering doctoral student is among six "crew members" spending the next eight months in a domed habitat on a volcanic landscape mimicking life on a Martian outpost.

The wake-up call that sent hearts racing

5 hours ago

"But as the minutes ticked by, the relaxed attitude of many of us began to dissolve into apprehension. Our levels of adrenaline and worry began to rise."

US-India to collaborate on Mars exploration

15 hours ago

The United States and India, fresh from sending their own respective spacecraft into Mars' orbit earlier this month, on Tuesday agreed to cooperate on future exploration of the Red Planet.

Swift mission observes mega flares from a mini star

15 hours ago

On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series ...

Sandblasting winds shift Mars' landscape

19 hours ago

High winds are a near-daily force on the surface of Mars, carving out a landscape of shifting dunes and posing a challenge to exploration, scientists said Tuesday.

PanSTARRS K1, the comet that keeps going

22 hours ago

Thank you K1 PanSTARRS for hanging in there! Some comets crumble and fade away. Others linger a few months and move on. But after looping across the night sky for more than a year, this one is nowhere near ...

User comments : 0