NASA readies the space shuttle Discovery for its scheduled launch on Feb. 24.
The space shuttle Discovery reached Launch Pad 39A following its 3.4
mile trek on the crawler-transporter from the Vehicle Assembly
Building, NASA reported, noting the first motion began Jan. 31.
The space agency reported the rotating service structure was closed
around Discovery the morning of Feb. 1, and technicians are currently working on
connecting the ground umbilical carrier plate (GUCP). Leak checks are
scheduled for Feb. 4, while the shuttle was powered up the morning
of Feb. 1 as part of the initial check out of systems. The launch is currently
scheduled for Feb. 24.
At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Discovery's STS-133
astronauts are reviewing photo and TV operations before Commander
Steve Lindsey and Pilot Eric Boe conduct Shuttle Training Aircraft
training runs around the White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. During
space shuttle Discovery's final spaceflight, the STS-133 crewmembers
will take important spare parts to the International Space Station
(ISS) along with the Express Logistics Carrier-4.
The space agency also reported Steve Bowen has replaced Tim Kopra as
Mission Specialist 2 following a bicycle injury on Jan. 15 that
prohibited Kopra from supporting the launch window. Bowen last flew on
Atlantis in May 2010 as part of the STS-132 crew. Flying on the STS-133
mission will make Bowen the first astronaut ever to fly on consecutive
missions, according to information released by NASA.
In other NASA news, astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup
commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued
training for the crew and support teams during mission commander Mark
Kelly's absence. Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was
critically wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz. Kelly
remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April
19 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Space Shuttle Program baselined the STS-135 mission for a target
launch date of June 28. It is NASA's intent to fly the mission with
orbiter Atlantis carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module
to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the ISS. The mission
also will fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically
refueling existing spacecraft and return a failed ammonia pump module
to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump
designs for future systems.
In late December, the agency's Space Operations Mission Directorate
requested the shuttle and ISS programs take the necessary steps to
maintain the capability to fly Atlantis on the STS-135 mission. The
Authorization Act of 2010 directs NASA to conduct the mission, and
baselining the flight enables the program to begin preparations for the
mission. The operation would be the 135th and final space shuttle
Last week the space agency paid tribute
to astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration,
with President Barack Obama and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
marking a day of remembrance for the astronauts lost in the Apollo 1,
Challenger and Columbia disasters. This year also marks the 25th
anniversary of the loss of the Challenger shuttle and its crew, which
disintegrated shortly after launch when a booster engine failed. The
accident claimed the lives of all seven crewmembers, including Christa
McAuliffe, the first candidate for NASA's Teacher in Space