Now that SC stand-alone testing is complete, we are starting the phase known as Joint Operations. This is when the SC is mechanically and electrically mated to the Launch Vehicle hardware. To put it simply, this is when we start making the little pieces into one big piece! The first step was to mate the SC to the payload adapter system (PLA) – a conical structure that attaches to the bottom of the SC. Next, we took the SC-PLA combo and mated it to the top of the Breeze M upper stage. We successfully completed these steps today after about 17 hours of work, taking into account all the testing and mechanical and electrical checks that had to occur. Next, the SC-PLA-Breeze M stack will be rotated from vertical to horizontal and the payload fairing installed. The combination of all these pieces into a single unit is known as the Orbital Unit (OU). The SC and launch vehicle will remain in a horizontal orientation until we move the whole integrated launch vehicle to launch pad on L-5 days. This differs from U.S. launch vehicle processing, in that the majority of assembly in those systems occurs horizontally. Quite a difference if you are not used to it!
02 Feb 2010