Building V-55: Not Your Typical Filling Station
18 Jul 2013
(Source: NASA Wallops Flight Facility)
The fueling station at V-55 on north Wallops Island had yet to open for business, but the vehicles were already lining up. Now entering its fourth month of operations, the new facility has been extremely busy with near daily activities.
Ironically, during this time only one vehicle has been fueled with another set for fueling in the next week or so. But, V-55 isn't your typical filling station and its customers aren't operating your typical vehicles.
The Wallops Spacecraft Fueling Facility, Building V-55 on north island, is a state-of-the-art facility capable of fueling spacecraft bound from anywhere between the International Space Station, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth, to the moon and beyond.
As for the line up since V-55 operations started in April 2013, the inaugural fueling began with an Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus spacecraft. That Cygnus is slated to dock with the space station in September as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Demonstration flight. Later this month, NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft, better known as LADEE, will begin fueling operations in preparation for its scheduled Sept. 6 launch to the moon. Another Cygnus PCM is scheduled to arrive at Wallops in mid-July with fueling operations anticipated later in the year.
According to Peter Turlington, Wallops project manager with oversight over the V-55 facility, in addition to the highly-specialized capability of fueling spacecraft, Wallops' expansion into clean room operations and work with pressure systems are altogether three sought-after capabilities for space-bound customers. And these capabilities, available in the Horizontal Integration Facility (pressure systems), H-100 payload processing facility (clean room/pressure systems), and the recently completed V-55 (clean room/spacecraft fueling/pressure systems), are all additions to Wallops in the past few years.
"Prior to this, our ability to process and fuel spacecraft was quite limited," said Turlington. "Now, these capabilities are opening doors for more sophisticated operations ahead."
The facilities have multi-use capabilities as well. For example, in V-55 engineers from NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., are conducting spin-balance testing on the LADEE spacecraft. Engineers completed a spin-balance test of the unfueled spacecraft in early July and will conduct spin-balance tests after the spacecraft is fueled. LADEE will remain in V-55 for ongoing tests and processing leading up to its integration on a Minotaur V rocket in late August at Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0B on Wallops Island.
"I'm thrilled about having this capability on site-it's a real game changer," said Turlington.
For more information about missions supported by Wallops' spacecraft fueling facility, see: www.nasa.gov/ladee and www.nasa.gov/orbital.
NASA, Wallops Flight Facility