On Thursday the NASATweetup group was lucky enough that there was a break in the weather, and we were able to witness the Rotating Service Structure Retraction.
The Rotating Service Structure (From here on out called RSS) provides protected access to the orbiter for installation and servicing of payloads at the pad, as well as servicing access to certain systems on the orbiter. The majority of payloads are installed in the vertical position at the pad, partly because of their design and partly because payload processing can thus take place further along in the launch processing schedule. The rotating service structure is 102 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 130 feet high. It is supported by a rotating bridge that pivots about a vertical axis on the west side of the pad's flame trench. The structure rotates through 120 degrees -- one third of a circle -- on a radius of 160 feet. Its hinged column rests on the pad surface and is braced against the fixed service structure. (from NASA.com).
About 24 hours prior to launch, NASA removes this structure from the Shuttle, in preparation for launch.
So from the Gantry, that the visitor center tour bus takes you to, you are seeing the RSS, and maybe the tip of the external fuel tank, and SRBs.
This was what it looked like from the area that they took us to, to watch
Slowly, ever so slowing that big gray thing, started moving
(See that white hat thing on the top of the external tank? that's the piece that almost cost us a on time launch, the computer was saying that it was not fully retracted.)
Isn't she pretty?
Its such a shame that this will be the last time that anyone will get to see a shuttle like this
I mean really
that is a beautiful 5 am sight, but 2 pm the day before the launch was AMAZING!
And to think I got an astronaut hug in front of this sight!
Such a beautiful sight!
While we were admiring the retraction, the crews were watching us, watch them
I could have hung out here all day long
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