With the MPLM fully loaded it is time to move it to the launch pad for installation in the Payload Bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The move from the Operations and Checkout Building to launch pad 39-A must be done in clean-room conditions. To achieve this the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module is installed into the Payload Canister which sits on top of the Payload Transporter.
The first thing that you will notice about the Payload transporter is the two large red pipes. These are expandable air conditioning tubes to keep the payload at the correct temperature and humidity during the transport to and installation whilst at the launch pad. Once the payload has been secured in the payload canister it is ready to move out to the launch pad.
Before the payload transporter can start to move the Launch Pad needs to be ready to accept the Payload Canister. This means that the Removable Service Structure (RSS) needs to be retracted so that the canister can be hoisted from its horizontal aspect to vertical where it fits into the RSS to be ultimately installed in the shuttle Payload Bay.
Details of the Space Shuttle Payload Installation and picture gallery follow:
With everything ready the Payload Transport heads out to the launch pad and is parked under the RSS. The Payload Canister is then installed inside the RSS with the air conditioning pipes trailing back down to the transport.
To install the payload into the Payload Bay the Shuttle’s Payload Doors need to be opened. As the doors are designed to be opened in the zero gravity of space where there is less pressure on them they need to be supported by struts known as ‘Strong Backs’. These allow the Shuttle Payload Bay doors to be opened on the launch pad without damaging any of the structure.
With the payload safely inside the Shuttle we are getting closer to the final preparations for Atlantis to fly.
We were fortunate enough to visit the launch pad the day after the payload was delivered. By the time we got there the Payload canister was already installed in the RSS, and was waiting to start the process of installing it into Space Shuttle Atlantis.