Control Room changes and plaque hangings - and back to FCR1!

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/30/2006 02:11:00 AM

This past week, I supported ISS mission operations on the “Orbit 1” shift (from 11PM to 8AM local Houston time). At the end of my week’s operations (yesterday), I decided to hang around Mission Control for the privilege of watching the STS-115/12A mission plaque hanging, and the retirement of the Blue Flight Control Room (BFCR).

Mission plaque hanging is a long-standing tradition within Mission Operations. If you visit any of the main Mission Control rooms in Houston, you’ll see mission plaques hanging on the side walls of each main Mission Control room. These mission plaques are representative of each mission supported within the room, reaching all the way back to the Gemini missions. At the end of each mission, the lead Flight Director selects a Flight Controller who exhibited the most poise and professionalism (usually under duress) with the privilege of climbing the ladder and “hanging the plaque” in Mission Control.

For this past mission, four Flight Controllers were given the honor – for two plaques within the White FCR (where the Shuttle Flight Control team works), and two within the Blue FCR (where the Space Station Flight Control team works). For this past mission, lead Flight Controllers for the INCO (Instrumentation and Communications officer) team and PDRS (Payload Deployment and Retrieval System – basically, the Robotics officers) hung the plaques in the WFCR. In the Blue FCR, the Assembly and Checkout and PHALCON (Electrical Power) Lead Flight Controllers hung the plaque.

After the plaque hangings in the BFCR, another special ceremony was added. Normally, during the plaque hanging ceremonies, the ceremony itself has to occur while Space Station operations are occurring. The event can get unnerving, as ~12 Flight Controllers are maintaining Space Station operations while ~40 people from a previous mission come into mission control and hang a couple of plaques on the wall (usually the events are scheduled during a light operations timeframe, to keep the ceremony from unnecessarily hampering space operations).

However, this time, the ISS was being operated out of the WFCR - nobody was in the BFCR! This is because we are moving ISS operations out of the BFCR to “FCR1”. FCR1 is actually the room where the Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab, and early Space Shuttle missions were flown. (Tourists don’t need to worry – a second BFCR has been maintained 1 floor above FCR1 which is in essentially the same condition as it was for the Apollo missions.) FCR1 has been refitted with more modern computer equipment, and on 6-October, we plan on operating the ISS from it.

Back to the future!

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