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SRB Ignition

SRB ignition can occur only when a manual lock pin from each SRB safe and arm device has been removed. The ground crew removes the pin during prelaunch activities. At T minus five minutes, the SRB safe and arm device is rotated to the arm position. The solid rocket motor ignition commands are issued when the three SSMEs are at or above 90-percent rated thrust, no SSME fail and/or SRB ignition PIC low voltage is indicated and there are no holds from the LPS.

The solid rocket motor ignition commands are sent by the orbiter computers through the MECs to the safe and arm device NSDs in each SRB. A PIC single-channel capacitor discharge device controls the firing of each pyrotechnic device. Three signals must be present simultaneously for the PIC to generate the pyro firing output. These signals- arm, fire 1 and fire 2-originate in the orbiter general- purpose computers and are transmitted to the MECs. The MECs reformat them to 28-volt dc signals for the PICs. The arm signal charges the PIC capacitor to 40 volts dc (minimum of 20 volts dc).

The fire 2 commands cause the redundant NSDs to fire through a thin barrier seal down a flame tunnel. This ignites a pyro booster charge, which is retained in the safe and arm device behind a perforated plate. The booster charge ignites the propellant in the igniter initiator; and combustion products of this propellant ignite the solid rocket motor initiator, which fires down the length of the solid rocket motor igniting the solid rocket motor propellant.

The GPC launch sequence also controls certain critical main propulsion system valves and monitors the engine- ready indications from the SSMEs. The MPS start commands are issued by the onboard computers at T minus 6.6 seconds (staggered start- engine three, engine two, engine one- all approximately within 0.25 of a second), and the sequence monitors the thrust buildup of each engine. All three SSMEs must reach the required 90-percent thrust within three seconds; otherwise, an orderly shutdown is commanded and safing functions are initiated.

Normal thrust buildup to the required 90-percent thrust level will result in the SSMEs being commanded to the lift- off position at T minus three seconds as well as the fire 1 command being issued to arm the SRBs. At T minus three seconds, the vehicle base bending load modes are allowed to initialize (movement of approximately 25.5 inches measured at the tip of the external tank, with movement towards the external tank).

At T minus zero, the two SRBs are ignited, under command of the four onboard computers; separation of the four explosive bolts on each SRB is initiated (each bolt is 28 inches long and 3.5 inches in diameter); the two T-0 umbilicals (one on each side of the spacecraft) are retracted; the onboard master timing unit, event timer and mission event timers are started; the three SSMEs are at 100 percent; and the ground launch sequence is terminated.

The solid rocket motor thrust profile is tailored to reduce thrust during the maximum dynamic pressure region.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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