Space shuttle Discovery rolls out to launch pad
Preparing for the 28th space shuttle flight to the International Space Station, the space shuttle Discovery last week was pushed to its ocean-side launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle crew performed a dress rehearsal, known internally as a ‘terminal countdown demonstration test,’ at the start of this week. Discovery was moved from the massive Vehicle Assembly Building atop the Apollo-era crawler-transporter to Launch Complex 39A, the primary shuttle launch site.
Discovery is currently targeted for a launch on February 12 for a two-week construction mission to the ISS. The shuttle will be commanded by Lee Archambault, with pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips, and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wataka will replace current ISS resident Sandra Magnus, who will return with Discovery to Earth.
In addition to delivering Wakata, the shuttle crew will also install the new S6 truss segment on the starboard side of the station and deploy a new array of solar panels. The installation of the S6 truss as well as other supplies for the station. The crew will also conduct a number of experiments, including a heat shield test that will raise a single heat tile 1/4 of an inch above the rest, creating a boundary layer transition as the shuttle passes Mach 15 on reentry. A boundary layer transition is a not-well understood phenomenon that results from high-speed turbulence, NASA hopes that the small offset of the tile will yield valuable data about such events in real-world situations without putting the shuttle crew in undue harm.
STS-119 will be the 125th space shuttle flight, the 36th flight for Discovery, and the 28th space shuttle flight to the ISS. After it lands, there will be eight remaining shuttle flights, with one to service the Hubble Space Telescope and the rest to complete assembly of the ISS.
STS-119 || Space Shuttle Discovery
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