Discovery – more than just a test flight

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Discovery’s July 1 launch from the Kennedy Space Center won’t just be to test out the modifications made to the External Tank, it won’t even be just a re-supply mission to bring food and clothing to the International Space Station.

A Johnson Space Center (JSC) full mission outline of flight day activities and logistical elements has been acquired and listed into this article, as part of’s extensive coverage of STS-121.

This full outline and images is available in PowerPoint Presentation form on L2.


Shuttle Crewmembers, from left:Stephanie D. Wilson, mission specialist 3. Michael E. Fossum, mission specialist 1 (EV2). Steven W. Lindsey, commander. Piers J. Sellers, mission specialist 4 (EV1). Mark E. Kelly, pilot. Lisa M. Nowak, mission specialist 2. Discovery will also bring a third crewmember to the ISS, ESA Astronaut, Thomas Reiter.

Flight Day List:

Day 1: Launch. Obtain imagery and impact sensor data during ascent. Downlink external tank umbilical photos and wing leading edge system data. Power up and initialize Shuttle arm; deploy KU antenna.

Day 2: Checkout Shuttle arm prior to survey activity. Inspect Shuttle wing leading edge (both wings) and nose cap. Checkout two EVA suits.

Crewmembers will perform wing leading edge and nose cap inspections using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System attached to the Shuttle arm; downlink the sensor data to the ground for evaluation; similar inspections will be performed on Flight Day 4. The Orbiter Boom Sensor System configuration has three sensors: the Laser Dynamic Range Imager, the Integrated Sensor Inspection System Digital Camera, and the Laser Camera System.

Day 3: Perform 360-degree pitch maneuver to photograph Shuttle tiles. Dock Shuttle to ISS; hand-off attitude control to ISS. Unberth Orbiter Boom Sensor System with ISS arm; hand off to Shuttle arm. Transfer critical middeck cargo to ISS.

ISS Crewmembers will inspect Shuttle tiles using ISS cameras during the rendezvous R-bar Pitch Maneuver. Shuttle crew cabin will be surveyed using Shuttle arm with real time KU downlink.

Day 4: Install Multi-Purpose Logistics Module on Node 1. Prepare for EVA 1. Perform Orbiter Boom Sensor System focused inspection survey. Transfer logistics and Shuttle middeck items.

Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, will make its 4th trip to ISS to deliver more than two tons of equipment, supplies, spare parts and crew supplies: 3 Resupply Stowage Racks (RSRs). 5 Resupply Stowage Platforms (RSPs). 1 Express Transportation Rack (ETR). Minus Eighty-Degree/Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). 1st rack of the Oxygen Generation System (OGS).

MELFI will provide the capability to preserve science samples. OGS will eventually provide enough oxygen to support six crew members.

After Leonardo is unloaded, used equipment and trash will be transferred from ISS for return to Earth. The logistics module will be detached from the ISS and positioned back into Shuttle’s cargo bay for return.

Day 5: Perform EVA 1 from ISS Joint Airlock (6 hours 30 min.) Perform Orbiter tile repair worksite stabilization tests. Restore 1 of 2 failed ISS mobile transporter umbilical guides. Transfer logistics items.

Crewmembers will begin maintenance of the ISS Mobile Transporter by either safing or replacing an automatic cable-cutter unit, housed in the Interface Umbilical Assembly. The Trailing Umbilical System cable which provides power, command, data and video connections to the Mobile Transporter will then be re-routed back through the Interface Umbilical Assembly. The cable was moved out of range of the cable cutter during Expedition 12 to prevent accidental severing.

Crewmembers will test a manned orbital boom to determine the stability of the Shuttle’s robot arm when equipped with a 50-foot extension. Crewmembers on the end of the Shuttle arm will perform simulated EVA inspections and repair movements as the arm is moved to various positions while the loads are being measured.

Results will be used to develop load-minimizing techniques, worksite stability requirements, and associated hardware in order to accomplish EVA inspection and repair of the Shuttle tiles.

Day 6: Prepare for EVA 2; checkout EVA suits #3 and #4. Transfer logistics and Shuttle middeck items.

Day 7: Perform EVA 2 from ISS Joint Airlock (6 hours 30 min.) Remove and replace mobile transporter umbilical and guide. Transfer pump module to the external stowage platform. Transfer logistics items and maintenance spares to ISS.

Crewmembers will remove and replace the Nadir Trailing Umbilical System (TUS) reel assembly which had an unexplained failure when its automatic disconnect system inadvertently fired and severed the cable.

Day 8: Prepare for EVA 3 (if mission extended). Transfer logistics and Shuttle middeck items.

Day 9: Perform EVA 3 (6 hours 30 min) if consumable dependent extension is achieved. Perform crack repair on damaged samples. Photograph wing leading edge and tile repair samples. Perform final logistics transfers; crew off-duty time (If EVA #3 takes place, all subsequent tasks will move 1 day to the right).

Crewmembers will perform Reinforced Carbon-Carbon/tile crack repair on eight damaged samples using Non-Oxide Adhesive (NOAX). Heat resistant putty-like material, applied with caulk gun to repair coating loss and fill fine cracks. Crew will capture imagery of tile repair samples in Sample Box Assembly and wing leading edge.

Digital still camera will be tested to determine its usefulness at detecting tile subsurface delaminations; tests will determine if camera is flown as standard equipment on future flights.

Day 10: Reberth logistics module and Orbiter Boom Sensor System in payload bay. Perform late inspections on port wing leading edge. Complete middeck transfers.

Day 11: Close hatches; perform docking system leak checks; undock from ISS. Stow Orbiter Boom Sensor System in Shuttle cargo bay. Perform late inspections on starboard wing leading edge and nose cap.

Day 12: Stow Shuttle cabin. Checkout re-entry systems.

Day 13: Prepare for deorbit and landing at Kennedy Space Center.

Mission Objectives:

Verify return to flight efforts and analysis in launch environment. Inspect Shuttle wing leading edge and tiles. Demonstrate Orbiter Boom Sensor System as a repair work platform. Increase ISS crew size from 2 to 3. Replace ISS Mobile Transporter failed umbilical. Replace Microgravity Science Glovebox window.

Transfer resupply and outfitting to ISS: Nitrogen. Crew provisioning and food. 3 US EVA spacesuits. 1st rack of the Oxygen Generation System. Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS rack. Critical Spares.

Discovery will carry the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), Leonardo, with equipment to resupply the ISS. The Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC) will support delivery of hardware required to perform Thermal Protection System (TPS) repair during an EVA.

The Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) will be used to transport the Early Ammonia Thermal Control Pump Module Assembly (PMA) and the Trailing Umbilical System Reel Assembly (TUS RA). Additional cargo includes the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), and the Orbiter Docking System (ODS).

Expedition Firsts:

Transition from 2 crew to 3 crew. ESA astronaut flying as cosmonaut (long duration crew member). Monitor operation and status of ESA Columbus Control Center.

Deliver and checkout the 1st rack of the Oxygen Generation System. Deliver and activate refrigerator/freezer. Resume ISS assembly with Flight 12A.

Equipment and Supplies on STS-121 for ISS Expedition 13 On-board Experiments:

ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts’ Central Nervous System): Measures the exposure of crewmembers to cosmic radiation to further our understanding of the impacts of radiation on the human central nervous system and visual system. Provides an assessment of the radiation environment in the ISS. Livio Narici, Ph.D., University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’ and INFN, Rome, Italy.

CFE (Capillary Flow Experiment): A suite of fluid physics flight experiments to investigate capillary flows and flows of fluids in containers with complex geometries. Results will provide computer models that may be applied by designers of low gravity fluid systems in future spacecraft. Mark Weislogel, Ph.D., Portland State University, Portland, OR.

DAFT (Dust and Aerosol Measurement Feasibility Test): Tests the effectiveness of a device that counts ultra-fine dust particles in a microgravity environment. A precursor and risk mitigation activity for the next generation of spacecraft fire detection hardware. David Urban, Ph.D., Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH.

Journals (Behavioral Issues Associated with Isolation and Confinement):
Crew journals and surveys are studied to help evaluate the most important factors for coping with isolation and long duration space flight. Jack Stuster, Ph.D., Anacapa Sciences, Incorporated, Santa Barbara, CA.

MISSE-3 and 4
(Materials International Space Station Experiment – 3 and 4): Part of an ongoing experiment and will be installed during an EVA. Test beds attached to the outside of the ISS containing materials and coatings are being evaluated for the effects of atomic oxygen, direct sunlight, and extremes of heat and cold. Allows development and testing of new materials to better withstand the rigors of space environments. Many of the materials may have applications in the design of future spacecraft. William H. Kinard, Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA.

MISSE-5 (Materials International Space Station Experiment -5): Part of an ongoing materials testbed experiment and will be retrieved during an EVA. Robert Walters, Ph.D., Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC and William Kinard, Ph.D., Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA.

Nutrition (Nutrition Status Assessment):
Allows for a more complete assessment of space flight impact on crew nutritional status, bone health, and rehabilitation by expanding on the current Clinical Nutrition Assessment. The data collected will allow for the evaluation of the efficacy of current and potential countermeasures. Scott Smith, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

POEMS (Passive Observatories for Experimental Microbial Systems):
Will evaluate the effect of genetic variation within model microbial cells. Enhances understanding of the growth and ecology of microorganisms in space. Michael Roberts, Ph.D., Dynamac Corporation, Kennedy Space Center, FL.

Renal Stone (Renal Stone Risk During Space Flight: Assessment and Countermeasure Validation): Tests the efficacy of potassium citrate as a countermeasure to renal stone formation during long-duration space flight. Kidney stone formation is a significant risk during long duration space flight that could endanger crew health. Peggy A. Whitson, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

SAMS-II (Space Acceleration Measurement System-II): An intermittent study of the small forces (vibrations and accelerations) on the ISS that result from the operation of hardware, crew activities, as well as dockings and maneuvering. Results will be used to generalize the types of vibrations affecting vibration-sensitive experiments.

SEM (Space Experiment Module): Students conduct research on the effects of microgravity, radiation and space flight on various materials. Encourages students to probe into the physics of radiation, microgravity and space flight through planning, performing and analyzing materials experiments on board the ISS. Ruthan Lewis, Ph.D., Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites): Bowling-ball sized free-flying spheres test control algorithms for spacecraft by performing independent formation flight and docking maneuvers inside the ISS. The results are important for satellite servicing, vehicle assembly, and formation flown interferometers. David W. Miller, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

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Stability (Stability of Pharmacotherapeutic and Nutritional Compounds):
Past space flights have suggested that the space environment can reduce the potency of medicines and the nutritional value of foods commonly used by space explorers. Determine the magnitude of these effects on the stability of medicines and food to develop improved storage, countermeasures, and preserve items for future long duration expeditions to the Moon and Mars. Scott Smith, Ph.D. and Lakshmi Putcha, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

SWAB (Surface, Water and Air Biocharacterization):
Human presence in space, permanent or transient, is accompanied by the presence of microorganisms. Will provide better understanding of the microbial flora thorough microbial risk assessment to the crew and the spacecraft for human exploration to the Moon and Mars. Used to advanced molecular technologies and better understand the types of organisms that the crew could encounter, their sources, and the potential risks to the crew. Duane L. Pierson, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

Tropi (Analysis of a Novel Sensory Mechanism in Root Phototropism): Video tape, sample and analyze plants sprouted from seeds to determine which genes are responsible for successful plant growth in microgravity. May lead to sustainable agriculture for future long duration space missions. John Kiss, Ph.D., Miami University, Oxford, OH.

FIT (Fungal Pathogenesis, Tumorigenesis, and Effects of Host Immunity in Space): Investigate susceptibility to fungal infection, progression of radiation-induced tumors and changes in immune function in sensitized Drosophila (fruit fly) lines. Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA and Deborah Kimbrell, Ph.D., University of California-Davis, Davis, CA.

Latent Virus (Incidence of Latent Virus Shedding During Space Flight):
Study Astronauts to determine frequencies of reactivation of latent viruses and clinical diseases after exposure to the physical, physiological and psychological stressors associated with short duration space flight. Duane L. Pierson, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX and Satish K. Mehta, Ph.D., Enterprise Advisory Services, Incorporated, Houston, TX.

MAUI (Maui Analysis of Upper Atmospheric Injections):
Observe exhaust plume of the Space Shuttle to assess spacecraft plume interactions with the upper atmosphere. Rainer Dressler, Ph.D., Hanscom Air Force Base, Lexington, MA.

PMZ (Bioavailability and Performance Effects of Promethazine During Space Flight): Examine bioavailability and performance impacting side-effects of Promethazine as a motion sickness medication taken by the Space Shuttle astronauts. Lakshmi Putcha, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

RAMBO (Ram Burn Observations):
Observes Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine burns to improve plume models. Sensors will observe selected rendezvous and orbit adjust burns. William L. Dimpfl, Ph.D., Aerospace Corporation. Los Angeles, CA.

Sleep-Short (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure During Space Flight-Short):
Examine effects of space flight on the sleep-wake cycles of the astronauts during Space Shuttle missions. Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA.

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) European Space Agency:

EMCS provides a facility where small organisms (plants, microbes, insects, amphibians) can grow in variable gravity conditions (0.001G to 2.0G) using a rotating centrifuge. It was designed for multi-generation experiments and studies on gravity effects on early development and growth in a variety of organisms.

EMCS will facilitate long-term plant growth studies, including multi-generation studies (seed to seed), early development events in plants, gravity influence on early development and growth (g-level threshold research) and how plants perceive and respond to gravity as they grow.

FACILITY OPERATION: SEMCS consists of a gas tight incubator containing two centrifuges with space for 4 Experiment Containers on each rotor; the life support and water supply system, and the illumination and the observation system are located on the rotors.

Once on ISS, the turning of the rotors can be used to apply a gravity effect between the normal microgravity and 1G experienced on Earth.

Minus Eighty Degrees Laboratory Freezer (MELFI):

FACILITY SUMMARY: This multi-purpose freezer significantly enhances the research
capabilities of the US Laboratory on ISS.

Supports a wide range of life science experiments by
preserving biological samples (such as blood, saliva, urine, microbial or plant samples) collected onboard ISS for later return and analysis back on Earth.

Samples from the ISS Medical Project will be stored in MELFI
and contribute to multiple studies of the effect of space flight on human health in support of the Vision for Space Exploration.

FACILITY OPERATIONS: The freezer is based on the Brayton Thermodynamic Cycle which uses nitrogen as a working fluid. It includes four nitrogen-cooled dewars which can be controlled independently to keep samples at any of three different temperatures: -80, -26 and +4°C (-112, -15 and 39°F).

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