Space Shuttle Discovery Final Launch Scheduled for February 24th
Discovery‘s launch date was announced Friday at the conclusion of a flight readiness review at Kennedy, which lasted all day. During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle and station’s equipment, support systems and personnel are ready.
“We had a really thorough review today,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Operations. “Things are looking pretty good.”
Managers, engineers and contractors went over the detailed analysis and testing performed on the support beams of Discovery‘s external fuel tank during the session and reviewed the repairs and modifications made. The processes of the repairs and testing involved people throughout the agency and its centers.
“I can’t say enough about the work the teams have done,” Gerstenmaier said.
The six astronauts for the mission will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the station. The PMM was converted from the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo and will provide additional storage for the station crew. Experiments in such fields as fluid physics, materials science, biology and biotechnology may be conducted inside the module.
The PMM also carries Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space, which will become a permanent resident of the station. In addition, the flight will deliver critical spare parts and the Express Logistics Carrier 4, an external platform that holds large equipment.
STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey and his crew are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy on Sunday for final launch preparations. Joining Lindsey are Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Bowen and Drew will conduct two spacewalks to install new components and perform maintenance.
The crew also underwent a change recently when astronaut Steve Bowen was assigned to take the place of Tim Kopra who was injured in a bicycle accident. “Overall the crew was in really good shape and felt really comfortable with this change,” said Mike Moses, chairman of the Mission Management Team.
Discovery is poised on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The countdown is to begin Monday at 3 p.m. with a liftoff at 4:50 pm EST on Thursday, if there are no further delays.
Discovery‘s launch will occur six hours after the planned docking of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 “Johannes Kepler” to the space station.
STS-133 is the first mission planned for 2011 although it was initially scheduled to launch on November 1st, 2010 but was postponed due to a leak. It is Discovery‘s 39th flight and the 35th shuttle mission to the station. There are two more flights planned before the shuttle retires this year, STS-134 with the Space Shuttle Endeavour and STS-135 with the Space Shuttle Atlantis.