Space Shuttle Discovery To Air and Space Museum

Space Shuttle Mounted on 747 Carrier Aircraft
Image Credit: NASA


On Tuesday, April 17, between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT, space shuttle Discovery, mounted on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will fly from Kennedy Space Center to its new home at the National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center. Individuals in the Washington metropolitan area will have the opportunity to see Discovery before it lands at Dulles International Airport.

Though the exact route and timing of the flight depend on weather and operational constraints, the SCA is expected to fly at approximately 1,500 feet near a variety of landmarks in the area, including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

Some publicly accessible locations from which you may be able to “Spot the Shuttle” are listed below. If you take pictures, feel free to post them on the Space Shuttle Discovery Flickr Group and if you’re on Twitter, you can tweet them using the hashtag #spottheshuttle.

NASA Defends 2013 Budget Request

NASA Administrator Bolden
Image Credit: Space News

Responding to accusations by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing that the Administration was siphoning money from the Orion capsule and Senate Launch System (SLS) to speed up the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said:

We want to reach a date in the future where everything comes together. It doesn’t do us any good if I have an Orion vehicle that’s ready to fly a year before I have a launch vehicle. It doesn’t do any good to have a launch vehicle to fly a year before I have a crew module to put on it, and it definitely doesn’t do me any good if I have Orion and SLS teamed together and ready to launch sitting in the [Vertical Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center] because the launch facility is not complete.

Bolden noted that the earliest that the SLS could launch Orion is 2021.

As for the CCDev program, Bolden reminded the committee that NASA’s original request was for more than a Billion dollars, and that this was trimmed to $850 Million, which is what pushed the first launch from 2015 to 2017. With annual costs of $405 Million for Russia to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), the two year delay will cost American taxpayers an additional $810 Million. Bolden said, “this is going to be cheaper for the American taxpayer in the long run.”

Further reductions down to the Congressional proposal of $406 Million, might well cripple the entire CCDev program.

Atlantis – And Then There Were None

Atlantis Reentry
Atlantis Reentry as seen from the International Space Station
Image Credit: NASA

Atlantis Cockpit View of Dawn and Kennedy Space Center
Atlantis Cockpit View of Kennedy Space Center
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlantis Approach to the Runway
Atlantis Approach to the Runway
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlantis Touchdown
Atlantis Touchdown at Kennedy Space Center
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlantis and Crew
Atlantis, Astronaut Crew, and Ground Crew.
Image Credit: NASA

Official landing times:

Mission Elapsed Times (MET):

Main Gear Touchdown: MET 12/18:27:56 – 9:57:00 am UTC
Nose Gear Touchdown: MET 12/18:28:16 – 9:57:20 am UTC
Wheel Stop: MET 12/18:28:50 – 9:57:54 am UTC

High resolution images of Atlantis are now on

Juno Prepares for Launch to Jupiter

Juno Spacecraft Ready for Fueling
Image Credit: NASA /KSC

The Juno spacecraft is headed for a mission to Jupiter. The mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V on or after 5 August 2011.

With its suite of science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras.

Juno’s scientific payload includes:

  • A gravity/radio science system
  • A six-wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition
  • A vector magnetometer
  • Plasma and energetic particle detectors
  • A radio/plasma wave experiment
  • An ultraviolet imager/spectrometer
  • An infrared imager/spectrometer

The image below shows the configuration of the spacecraft and the science instruments that are being carried.

Juno Science
Juno Science Instruments
Image Credit: NASA / JPL

Atlantis – 8 July 2011 First Launch Attempt

STS-135 July 8
STS-135 two hours before launch
Image Credit: KSC TV Feed

At 6:44 AM Phoenix time (1344 UTC) launch is about 2 hours away. At the moment we are ‘no go’ due to cloud density over the launch site. NASA-TV is here, and the Kennedy Space Center video feeds can be found here for weather and pad cameras.

Weather 90 Minutes Before Launch
Image Credit: KSC TV Feed

The countdown is at T-minus 20 minutes and holding, with a ten minute built in hold.

At 7:21 AM Phoenix (1321 UTC) the count has resumed and will go down to T-minus 9 minutes for the next built in hold.

Ops Commit
Ops Commit Criteria 60 minutes before launch.
Image Credit: KSC Video

Weather is now a ‘go’. The Ops Commit Criteria are all green.

The launch is now at T-minus 9 minutes, with a 41 minute built in hold. This will set up the launch, with the window opening at 15:22:13 UTC.

The launch is expected at 15:26 UTC. The countdown will resume at 15:17:46 UTC

Poling of the main systems is complete, and everything is go.

T-minus 4 minutes.

Steering check of the three main engines. Solid rockets are armed. The auxiliary power units have been started.

T-minus 2 minutes.

T-minus 60 seconds.

T-minus 31 seconds and a failure at the moment of hand-off to the internal computer.

Retraction of the event arm confirmed.

The count has resumed.

And launch.

Image Credit: NASA TV

Seven minutes into the flight, all systems are go.

At eight minutes we have main engine cutoff and external tank separation.

All three APU systems and all three fuel cells are operating normally.

Atlantis will now begin chasing the International Space Station, anticipating docking two days from now.

Atlantis – The Last Space Shuttle Flight

STS-135 on the pad July 4th
Image Credit: KSC TV Feed

Processing of the space shuttle Atlantis continues today, July 4th, in preparation for the July 8 launch.

Here are the launch windows for Atlantis (times are UTC):

  • 8 July – 1521-1531
  • 9 July – 1459-1509
  • 10 July – 1433-1443

After that is a five day period reserved for a Delta IV launch. The next launch window is 16 July beginning at 1211 UTC.

The primary objective of STS-135 is to deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) carrying 9,500 lbs of cargo, a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Equipment Support Structure Carrier (LMC), and a Station Power Distribution Unit (SPDU). The LMC will carry the Robotics Refueling Payload to the ISS and return the failed Pump Module (PM) from the ammonia cooling system. Additional ISS equipment and supplies will be carried up.

The current mission for Atlantis is to deliver as much stuff as possible to the Space Station before we come to rely on the Russian Soyuz M, European ATV, Japanese HTV, SpaceX Dragon and Orbital Sciences Cygnus resupply missions.

A long history of the Atlantis missions can be found at NASASpaceFlight:

A complete guide to NASA TV coverage can be found here.

Discovery Returns

365 Days – total accumulated time in space during 39 missions.

146 million miles – total mileage accumulated during Discovery’s time in orbit.

Discovery was cleared for return on the first available opportunity.

Discovery Descending
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Descending
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Approach
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Touchdown
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Chute
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Rollout
Image Credit: NASA TV

Discovery Stopped
Image Credit: NASA TV

Main Gear Touchdown: MET 12/19:03:53 – 16:57:17 UCT

Nose Gear Touchdown: MET 12/19:04:04 – 16:57-28 UCT

Wheel Stop: MET 12/19:04:50 – 16:58:14 UCT

Discovery’s Final Day in Orbit

Discovery is spending its final day in orbit, and is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at either 9:58 AM Phoenix time (1658 UTC) (orbit 202) or 11:34 AM Phoenix time (orbit 203) on Wednesday.

Prior to reentry tomorrow, Discovery astronauts powered up one of the auxiliary power units and performed tests on the orbiter’s flight control surfaces. This provides assurance to the Mission Control staff and the Space Shuttle crew that elevons and speed brake will control the spacecraft once the shutle enters the atmosphere.

The second of the main tasks today was the firing of the Space Shuttle’s Reaction Control System (RCS) thruster rockets.

Discovery Day 12 Over Morocco
Discovery Day 12 Over Morocco From ISS
Image Credit: NASA

Each was fired in a standard two-pulse checkout that ensures they will properly control the shuttle during Wednesday’s de-orbit and entry back to Earth. All the jets performed normally.

Depending on whether Discovery reenters during orbit 202 or 203, the track will either cross the southern Pacific and the Yucatan peninsula (202) or cross northern Mexico, southern Texas and Louisiana (203). Details can be found at NASA’s landing map page.

If Discovery is unable to land Wednesday due to weather, additional opportunities are available on Thursday at Kennedy and at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

If Discovery lands Wednesday, it will have spent a total of 365 days in space and traveled more than 148 million miles during 39 flights. It launched on its first mission on 30 August 1984.

Leonardo’s Final Trip

Leonardo in Discovery
Leonardo in Discovery Payload Bay
Image Credit: NASA

The “Leonardo” is one of three Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLM), built to ferry supplies and equipment to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Its current mission is the eighth, and last, mission. It has received upgraded space debris protection and easier access to its internal storage racks, and has been installed on the ISS as a Permanent Multipurpose Module.

Leonardo is a cylindrical module 4.5 meters (15 feet) in diameter and 5 meters (21 feet) long. It weighs 4.5 tons empty and can carry up to 10 tons of cargo. Now permanently attached to the Space Station, it will serve as storage space for scientific experiments, supplies and food.

The three MPLMs were built by the Italian Space Agency. Construction of the Leonardo module began in April 1996 at the Alenia Aerospazio factory in Turin, Italy. Leonardo was delivered to Kennedy Space Center from Italy in August 1998 by a special Beluga cargo aircraft. Raffaello arrived at Kennedy in August 1999. The third module, named Donatello, was delivered to Kennedy on Feb. 1, 2001.

Of the other two MPLMs, Raffaello has flown three times and Donatello has never flown.

The Italian Space Agency chose the names of the modules because they denote some of the great talents in Italian history:

  • Leonardo da Vinci, an extraordinary inventor-scientist, civil engineer, architect, artist and military planner and weapons designer
  • Donato di Niccolo Di Betto Bardi, one of the greatest sculptors of all time and one of the founders of modern sculpture
  • Raffaello Sanzio, an artist whose work stands alone for its visual achievement of human grandeur, both in clarity of form and ease of composition.

The seven previous missions:

  • STS-102 mission launched 8 March 2001 – System racks, robotic arm workstations, electrical converters and the U.S. Avionic 3 and a Crew Health Care System rack
  • STS-105 launched 10 August 2001 – Science racks for the US Destiny lab, stowage racks and platforms
  • STS-111 launched 5 June 2002 – 8,062 pounds of supplies including a science rack for microgravity, and a glovebox
  • STS-121 launched 4 July 2006 – food and supplies, a minus 80 degree lab freezer, the European Modular Cultivation System for biology experiments, and the Oxygen Generation System
  • STS-126 launched 14 November 2008 – 14,000 pounds including two crew quarters racks, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, two water reclamation racks, a waste and hygiene compartment and a galley
  • STS-128 launched 28 August 2009 – two research racks, four system racks, seven resupply stowage platforms two resupply stowage racks, one zero stowage rack and an integrated stowage platform
  • STS-131 launched 5 April 2010 – a third minus 80-degree freezer, a window orbital research facility, a crew quarters rack, a resistive exercise rack and resupply stowage racks and platforms

Leonardo at ISS
Leonardo Attached to ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV

ISS and 133 crew
Crew of ISS and Discovery in Leonardo
Image Credit: ESA and Crew

Cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko in the Interior of the Leonardo MPLM
Image Credit: NASA