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Astronaut Noguchi's Training Report, #7
STS-114 crew members' visits around the U.S.

Last Updated: October 1, 2003

Hello, everyone. This is astronaut Noguchi.

I think it's about time the rainy season has started in Japan. Here in Houston, it's very hot every day and the temperature rises over 30 degrees centigrade!!

Locations of Thiokol Inc., Stennis Space Center, and KSC

We STS-114 crew members are concentrating on the training for the return to flight. In addition to the regular training, such as simulations and diving training, we are eagerly making visits to the space shuttle-related facilities all over the US. We think it's very important to see with our own eyes what is going on at the front line of the safety efforts. We also visit these places to encourage engineers and workers who are working very hard to make the return to flight successful. In this report, I would like to introduce some of the visits we have been making.

Visit to the External Tank factory (Stennis Space Center, Louisiana)

Sample of the bipod foam that separated from the orbiter during the launch of STS-107

This is the factory in which the orange External Tank (ET) is produced. In the Columbia accident, the bipod ramp foam separated from the ET 81 seconds after the launch and hit the wing of the orbiter. Therefore, it is one of the most important factors in the return to flight, and people pay much attention to it. People like NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board have also been visiting the place frequently. The ET engineer explained to us the improved on design of the bipod ramp foam. After that, we saw the structure of the ET and looked at its manufacturing process.

Visit to the Solid Rocket Booster factory (ATK Thiokol Propulsion, Utah)


Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) are installed on the sides of the ET. SRBs are manufactured by ATK Thiokol Propulsion located in the western side of the Rocky Mountains. The SRB is composed of four parts. After the four parts are filled with fuel, they are transported separately by freight trains across the United States to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. When we visited there, it seemed that there was nothing wrong with the SRB and everything was in order in the factory.

By the way, the Solid Strap-on Booster (SSB) used for NASDA's(JAXA's) H-IIA rocket is supplied from ATK Thiokol Propulsion. We luckily had a chance to meet an engineer who had been working for years on the Japanese equipment.

Kennedy Space Center (Florida)

With Astronaut Mickey Mouse at KSC Picnic!

KSC is a familiar place for us, as this is where launches take place in Florida. In addition to the Columbia Debris Hanger, which I reported in the last training report, there are also the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) and Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in which the orbiter, ET, and SRBs are assembled. We visit these facilities as frequently as possible to find out the latest operations going on there. In the last visit, we participated in a KSC recreational event, the "KSC picnic", as guests and had a very good time with staff personnel and workers. As you can see, we ever had a photograph with Astronaut Mickey Mouse. Looks exciting, doesn't it ?!

Extra version: Arrival of the Japanese Experiment Module

Photo: Astronaut Noguchi in the front of the ship which carried the JEM
Photo: Astronaut Noguchi

On May 30, the Pressurized Module (PM) of Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), arrived at KSC. After leaving Yokohama port in the beginning of May, it crossed the Pacific Ocean smoothly and reached KSC three days earlier than expected. The PM was carefully covered and protected in a small freighter ship that was specially equipped with an air conditioner.

I have watched the PM since it was being built in the factory in Nagoya, and therefore it was very emotional to see it finally arrive in America. We celebrated its arrival with a Japanese traditional food, "sekihan" (rice boiled together with red beans.)

There are now many spirited Japanese personnel in KSC to make the final preparations for the launch of PM. They are preparing for the efficiency test with NASA, which is planned to be started late in August. Keep up with us on this topic!

Video: Astronaut Noguchi welcoming the JEM PM Real Video [3min32sec]

Astronaut Noguchi welcoming the JEM PM

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