Launch Alliance has prepared the launch pad for Starliner with the erection of a 20-story Crew Access Tower. Sections were manufactured off-site and pieced together, among them the Crew Access Arm and White Room, which together provide a ramp-like structure and preparation room for boarding Starliner. The 44-foot (13-meter) arm, according to ULA, is considered one of the largest built. “We’re creating history here,” said Howard Biegler, ULA launch operations project manager, who grew up on the Space Coast and as a child regularly was whisked away in the family station wagon to see the next launch from a prime vantage point. Biegler understands better than most the significance of what is unfolding, noting that the Atlas rocket 26 | BOEING FRONTIERS that carried John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth in 1962, was launched not far from Complex 41. “More than 50 years later, we get to do it again—with a new realm of space pioneers,” Biegler said. Three control centers will supervise Starliner launches. The Boeing Mission Control Center at Kennedy Space Center will monitor all spacecraft systems leading up to liftoff and link each of the centers with ground communications, enabling engineers, technicians and astronauts to speak to one another. ULA will manage launch operations from the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station before handing over flight operations to Boeing and NASA flight directors at the CST-100 and ISS mission control centers in Houston. Boeing initially gives the “go” for everyone to proceed. Software engineer Gene Brotherton is among those responsible for keeping the Boeing Mission Control Center computer systems operational for Starliner. Testing currently is ongoing and scripted, and he makes sure everything works properly well in advance of the first launch. Brotherton and others look for any potential issue that might occur. They point out that digital capabilities have come a long way since the orbiters were designed more than 30 years ago. “This computer has five times the power of the space shuttle’s,” Brotherton said, regarding one of the 28 new console workstations in the Boeing Mission Control Center. Near the Starliner production facility, Boeing lead test engineer Derek Otermat occupies a room filled with servers Photos: (Above) Starliner’s upper crew module dome rests on a work stand before an overhead crane lifts it up and onto the lower dome. (Far right) Technicians install components to the upper dome.
Frontiers October 2016 Issue
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