STS-133 Launch Timeline

February 24, 2011 22:08 by scibuff

Update: See the mission details and more photos in my STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery post.

The milestones of STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery launch (reverse order):

03:50 GMT (Feb. 25) – Crew sleep begins
02:15 GMT (Feb. 25) – ET video downlink
02:10 GMT (Feb. 25) – ET photo
22:40 GMT – Post insertion timeline begins
22:30 GMT – OMS-2 rocket firing (orbit circularization)

~ 22:03:34 GMT @ T+09:00 – Nominal MECO, OMS-1 not required. With a direct insertion ascent, the main engines are burned slightly longer to achieve the desired apogee altitude, such that an OMS-1 maneuver (which would supply the additional thrust needed to reach orbit) is not required.

– 22:03:07 GMT @ T+08:33 – External Tank (ET) separation.

External Tank Separation

External Tank Separation

– 22:03:04 GMT @ T+08:30 – Zero Thrust.

– 22:02:58 GMT @ T+08:24 – Main Engine Cut-off (MECO). Discovery has reach the planned orbit and is schedule to dock with the International Space Station on Flight Day 3.

– 22:02:15 GMT @ T+07:41 – Negative Istres.

– 22:01:54 GMT @ T+07:20 – Negative Moron.

– 22:00:47 GMT @ T+06:13 – Press to MECO and Single Engine Zaragoza 104 – Discovery can now reach planned orbit in case of a single SSME failure and the Zaragoza TAL site on a single engine at 104.5% throttle.

– 22:00:04 GMT @ T+05:30 – Single Engine OPS-3, select Zaragoza – Discovery could now reach the designated TAL site in Zaragoza Spain with a single engine at Full Power Level (FPL), i.e 109% throttle, should two of the SSME‘s fail (the OPS-3 software mode will be used for re-entry) – Prior to this point, the loss of two engines requires contingency abort procedures and OPS 6 software.

– 22:00:02 GMT @ T+05:28 – Roll to heads-up.

– 21:59:42 GMT @ T+05:08 – Press to ATO select Zaragoza – Discovery could now reach a safe orbit (circular / 194.5 km) with two Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) throttled at Typical Mission Power Level (104.5%) in case of a single SSME failure. Should one of the engines fail the crew could execute the Abort To Orbit (ATO) maneuver (in case of TAL abort, the landing facility in Zaragoza would be used).

– 21:59:02 GMT @ T+04:28 – End of OMS Assist.

– 21:58:28 GMT @ T+03:54 – Negative Return – Discovery has used too much fuel and is traveling too fast (9,310 km/h), too high (95 km) and is too far (191 km) to return to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for a potential Return To Launch Site (RTLS) abort.

21:57:26 GMT @ T+02:52 – 2 engine Istres. Discovery can now reach the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in Istres in the case of a single engine failure.

21:57:15 GMT @ T+02:41 – 2 engine Zaragoza. Discovery can now reach the TAL site in Zaragoza in the case of a single engine failure.

21:57:10 GMT @ T+02:36 – 2 engine Moron. Discovery can now reach the TAL site in Moron in the case of a single engine failure.

– 21:56:47 GMT @ T+02:13 – Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) assist.

– 21:56:37 GMT @ T+02:03Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) separation. Discovery is at the altitude of 45.08 km, 40.87 km down range from the KSC, traveling at 5 838.70 km/h (Mach 4).



– 21:54:35 GMT @ T+01:01 – Max-Q (the point of the greatest dynamic pressure).

– 21:54:27 GMT @ T+00:53 –Throttle up back to 104.5% engine power level.

– 21:54:22 GMT @ T+00:48 – Mach 1.

– 21:54:14 GMT @ T+00:40 – Throttle down from 104.5% to 72.0% engine power level at Mach 0.9.

– 21:53:52 GMT @ T+00:18 – Roll maneuver finished.

– 21:53:45 GMT @ T+00:11 – Start the roll program.

– 21:53:34 GMT @ T-00:00 – Lift-off. Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) ignition and lift-off of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 (ISS assembly flight 20A) mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Lift-off of Space Shuttle Discovery

Lift-off of Space Shuttle Discovery

– 21:50:20 GMT @ T-00:06.6 (and 06.48, 06.36) – The three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) start.

Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) start

Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) start

– 21:50:18 GMT @ T-00:09 – The hydrogen burn-off system begins to eliminate free hydrogen exhausted into the main engine nozzles during the start sequence to prevent small, but potentially dangerous, explosions when the main engines ignite.

The hydrogen burn-off system begins to eliminate free hydrogen

The hydrogen burn-off system begins to eliminate free hydrogen

– 21:50:12 T-00:15 – The Sound Suppression Water System has been activated to protect Discovery and the launch pad from acoustical energy and rocket exhaust reflected from the flame trench and Mobile Launcher Platform during launch.

– 21:49:56 GMT @ T-00:31 – Auto-sequence start. Discovery’s on-board computers have primary control of all vehicle’s critical functions.

21:45:32 GMT: Terminate LO2 replenish
21:48: GMT: T-5 minutes and counting

T-4 minutes and 59 seconds and counting

T-4 minutes and 59 seconds and counting

21:45:27 GMT: Launch window opens, T-5 minutes and holding (the launch window expires at 21:55:27 GMT)

21:41:27 GMT: The countdown clock resumes at T-9min and counting.

T-8 minuts and 59 seconds and counting

T-8 minuts and 59 seconds and counting

21:21 GMT: NASA Test Director (NTD) launch status verification.
20:56 GMT: Begin final built-in hold (T-minus 9m)

20:45 GMT: Resume countdown (T-minus 20m)
20:35 GMT: Begin 10-minute built-in hold (T-minus 20m)

19:45 GMT: Shuttle Discovery’s hatch has been closed and latched for flight, the six STS-133 astronauts are strapped into their seats.

19:20 GMT: Astronaut comm checks.

18:00 GMT: The STS-133 crew leaves the crew quarters at the Operations and Checkout Building and board the Astrovan to head to the Pad 39A.

STS-133 Crew Heads to the Pad - The six Discovery astronauts suited up in their flight gear wave to the crowd and board NASA's Astrovan for the short trip to Launch Pad 39A. - Credit: NASA

17:55 GMT: Resume countdown (T-minus 3 hours).

T-3 hours and holding

T-3 hours and holding

15:25 GMT: The shuttle tanking went into a stable replenish and the countdown entered a 2.5 hour long inbuilt hold at T-3 hours. During the hold the closeout crew will proceed to white room at the pad and the astronauts will suit up.

15:20 GMT: The liquid hydrogen tanking has reached 98% and will transition from fast-full to top-off at 2700 l per minute.

13:15 GMT: Liquid oxygen tanking changes to fast-fill mode at almost 6,000 l per minute. Liquid hydrogen is also in fast-fill phase adding almost 32,000 liters every minute into the external tank (ET).

13:05 GMT: Launch teams began liquid oxygen tanking in the slow-fill phase adding 1,200 liters every minute.

12:25 (Feb. 24) GMT: Fueling of the External Tank began with liquid hydrogen (at 20K) in the slow-fill mode. Liquid oxygen (at 90.188 K) will follow at 13:05 GMT. Resume countdown (T-minus 6 hours)

10:13 GMT: The crew wakes up in the crew quarters inside the Operations & Checkout Building at KSC
10:25 GMT: Begin 2-hour built-in hold (T-minus 6 hours)
05:25 (Feb. 24) GMT: Resume countdown at T-11 hours

The Mission Click at T-minus 11 hours

The Mission Click at T-minus 11 hours and holding with Launch Pad 39-A and Space Shuttle Discovery in the background

Discovery’s last trip to space begins

February 24, 2011 21:57 by scibuff

Update 1: Check out the launch timeline for launch milestones and more photos.

February 24, 2011 at 21:53:34 UTC, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Discovery on its last journey into space after a series of 5 scrubs in November 2010. Six crew members of STS-133 (ISS assembly flight ULF5), commanded by NASA astronaut and Air Force officer Steven W. Lindsey (STS-87, STS-95, STS-104, STS-121), will stay in space 10 days and 19 hours and land at the Kennedy Space Center on 7 March 2011 at approximately 16:50 UTC. Mission Specialists Benjamin Alvin Drew, Jr. (STS-118) and Steve Bowen (STS-126, STS-132) will spend a total of 13.0 hours outside the station on flight days 5 and 7 (Bowen replaced astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident in January). Discovery will spend two days heading toward its rendezvous with the International Space Station. On the second day of the flight, the crew will perform the standard scan of the shuttle’s thermal protection system using the orbiter boom sensor system attached to the end of Discovery’s robotic arm. On the third day of the flight, Discovery will approach and dock with the space station.

Lift-off of Space Shuttle Discovery

Lift-off of Space Shuttle Discovery

The mission will transport the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo and the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers (ELC4) to the ISS. The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) is a large, reusable pressurized element, carried in the space shuttle’s cargo bay, originally used to ferry cargo back and forth to the station. For STS-133, the PMM, known as Leonardo, was modified to become a permanent module attached to the International Space Station. Once in orbit, the PMM will offer 70 additional cubic meters of pressurized volume for storage and for scientific use. The module is carried in the cargo bay of Discovery and will be connected to the Unity node on the station.

The Crew of STS-133

Attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, these six astronauts take a break from training to pose for the STS-133 crew portrait. Pictured are NASA astronauts Steve Lindsey (center right) and Eric Boe (center left), commander and pilot, respectively; along with astronauts (from the left) Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen, all mission specialists. - Credit: NASA

Almost 200 people from 15 countries have visited the International Space Station, but so far the orbiting complex has only ever had human crew members – until now. Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is set to launch to the space station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.


R2 inside the EMI Chamber at Johnson Space Center waiting to move on to the next set of environmental tests. Photographer: Kris Kehe

R2, as the robot is called, will launch inside the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module. Once R2 is unpacked – likely several months after it arrives – it will initially be operated inside the Destiny laboratory for operational testing, but over time, both its territory and its applications could expand. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth.

A Shuttle Back Flip at the Space Station

A Shuttle Back Flip at the Space Station - Credit: ISS Expedition 11 Crew, STS-114 Crew, NASA

NASA began a tradition of playing music to astronauts during the Gemini program, which was first used to wake up a flight crew during Apollo 15. Each track is specially chosen, often by their families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities. NASA opened the selection process to the public for the first time for STS-133. The public was invited to vote on two songs used to wake up astronauts on previous missions to wake up the STS-133 crew.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery as it approaches the International Space Station (ISS) during the STS-105 mission. Visible in the payload bay of Discovery are the Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Leonardo at right, which stores various supplies and experiments to be transferred into the ISS; at center, the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) which carries the Early Ammonia Servicer (EAS); and two Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) containers at left. - Credit: NASA

On flight day 5, Drew and Bowen will install a power extension cable between the Unity and Tranquility nodes to provide a contingency power source. The spacewalkers will move a failed ammonia pump module that was replaced in August 2010 from an attachment bracket to a stowage platform adjacent to the Quest airlock. Drew and Bowen will install hardware under a camera on the truss that will tilt the camera to provide clearance for a spare part to be installed on a future mission. They next will replace a guide for the rail cart system used for moving cargo along the truss. The guides were removed when the astronauts were performing work on the station’s starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, which rotates the solar arrays to track the sun.

On flight day 7, Drew will remove thermal insulation from a platform while Bowen swaps out an attachment bracket on the Columbus module. Bowen then will install a camera assembly on the Dextre robot and remove insulation from Dextre’s electronics platform. Drew will install a light on a cargo cart and repair some dislodged thermal insulation from a valve on the truss then remove other insulation from Tranquility. The final task will be to “fill” a special bottle with space for a Japanese education payload. The bottle will be part of a museum exhibit for public viewing.

Discovery launch

Time-lapse photography captures space shuttle Discovery's path to orbit. Liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was at 6:21 a.m. EDT April 5 on the STS-131 mission. The seven-member crew will deliver the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo, filled with supplies, a new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the International Space Station's laboratories. - Credit: NASA/Ben Cooper

Discovery was NASA’s third space shuttle orbiter to join the fleet at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery also is known inside the space agency by its designation Orbiter Vehicle-103, or OV-103. Construction of Discovery began on Aug. 27, 1979 and was completed four years later. Discovery rolled out of the assembly plant building in Palmdale, California, October 1983 and was first launched Aug. 30, 1984 (STS-41D).

Discovery flew its maiden voyage on Aug. 30, 1984, on the STS-41D mission. Later missions included NASA’s return to flight after the loss of Challenger (September 1988) and Columbia (July 2005), launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990, the final Shuttle/Mir docking mission in June 1998 and Senator John Glenn’s shuttle flight in October 1998.

When first flown, Discovery became the third operational orbiter, and it currently is the oldest orbiter in service. It was named after two historic, Earth-bound exploring ships of the past. One was a vessel used by Henry Hudson in the early 1600s to explore the Hudson Bay and search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The other was one of two ships used by the British explorer James Cook in the 1770s. Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific led to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. Another of his ships was the Endeavour, the namesake of NASA’s newest shuttle.

After STS-133 Discovery will be the first space shuttle to retire from NASA’s fleet, having flown in space 39 times – more than any other shuttle.

Discovery’s numbers prior to STS-133:

Total distance traveled: 230 003 477 km
Total days in orbit: 351 (8,441 hours, 50 minutes, 41 seconds)
Total orbits: 5,628
Total flights: 38
Total crew members: 246
Mir dockings: 1 (STS-91 June 1998)
ISS dockings: 12
Discovery at Night

Discovery at Night - Xenon lights illuminate space shuttle Discovery on Launch Pad 39A following the retraction of the rotating service structure - Credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

Discovery launch scrubbed again due to LH2 leak

November 5, 2010 12:42 by scibuff

Update 2: FURTHER DELAY. Shuttle Discovery won’t fly before November 30 at 09:05 UTC.
Update 1: The teams are now working a 72 hour scrub turnaround procedure instead of the 48 they originally started to call. The earliest opportunity for Discovery to launch will be on Monday, Nov 8.

Nov 5, 2010 – The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery has been officially scrubbed at 12:11 UTC due to a leak of Liquid Hydrogen at the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) detected during the tanking process. Leaks at the GUCP delayed launches for STS-119 and STS-127.

The Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate

The Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate where a leak of liquid hydrogen has been detected during tanking - Credit: NASA TV

The teams are working a 48 hours turnaround 72 hours turnaround with launch targeted at 18:15:46 UTC on Sunday, as 24 hours is not enough to drain the External Tank (ET) to examine and resolved the issue. The current launch window closes on Sunday, November 7, 2010. The shuttle cannot launch between Nov. 8 and Nov. 23 because of a so-called beta angle cutout. Such cutouts are defined by the angle between the sun and the plane of the space station’s orbit. When it the beta angle is too high or too low, temperature constraints for the docked shuttle-station stack can exceed safety guidelines. Nevertheless, the Mission Management Team (MMT) is also looking into the possibility to launch on Monday, Nov 8 with a reworked flight plan.

ISS above London is back

August 31, 2010 21:21 by scibuff

After a short stay in Amsterdam my photo equipment is back in London snapping photos of ISS fly-overs whenever the weather permits. Here’s a stacked composite of the International Space Station (ISS) pass over London at 20:30 UTC tonight.

ISS fly over London

ISS fly over London with 2 minutes worth of star trails from the "zodiac" constellation of Ophiuchus. The bright star to the right of the ISS trail is Arcturus - Canon 450D, 20x5s f/4.5 ISO 400

Click on the the photo to see more details and star trails.

Sky chart for ISS fly over London

Sky chart for ISS fly over London - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 20:31:57 - 20:35:56 UTC - Source:

For more information about (visible) passes of ISS, and satellites, not only in London but for any place on Earth, visit the heavens above website. You can also follow @twisst, @abovelondon and @abovesf (if you’re in the San Francisco area) on twitter.

ISS groundtrack

The ground track of ISS with its current position - The dashed part of the orbit path shows where the satellite is in the earth's shadow, and the full part is where it is sunlit - Source:

Six Eruptions in Two Days

August 27, 2010 09:45 by scibuff

As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the Sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days (Aug. 14-15, 2010). At one point, three events were occurring at the same time. Most of these were eruptive prominences in which cooler clouds of gases above the surface break away from the Sun. The most powerful of the events, a coronal mass ejection, began around 6:30 UT on Aug. 15. It was harder to see from this spacecraft’s angle since it blasted out from the whiter active region in the lower center, so it had the Sun as its backdrop.

SOHO Pick of the Week: Popping Out All Over - Credit: SOHO/NASA & ESA

Courtesy of SOHO/STEREO consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Earth from orbit – timelapse

July 2, 2010 15:08 by scibuff

This sequence of time-lapse photographs illustrates roughly half an orbit of the International Space Station, from sunrise over Northern Europe to sunset southeast of Australia, on April 28, 2010. The view is to the north of the station’s ground track. In the upper-left, is the tail of the Space Shuttle Discovery, which docked with the Space Station during the STS-131 mission.

Sunrise to Sunset aboard the Space Station - Credit: NASA