STS-116: Discovery – her payload

by Chris Bergin

As Discovery sits on Launch Pad 39B, in preparation for what will be NASA’s third Shuttle mission of the year, the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been outlined in the final version of the STS-116 Flight Plan.

Given the “event” of a Shuttle mission, the payload that rides on the orbiter is usually less publicized. Thanks to the Flight Plan, those extra elements can now been published in detail.
**The 213 page Final Flight Plan and a huge amount of STS-116 related handbooks are available on L2**

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The Flight Plan lists every section of the mission in focused detail, with the ‘Launch Package’ expanding on everything that has been added to the STS-116 manifest listed below.

That package consists of the ITS-P5 Short Spacer Truss Segment (SSTS) with a Photovoltaic Radiator Grapple Fixture (PVRGF) that has two Grapple Fixtures (GFs) attached to the structure.

It also includes the ICC with a Passive Flight Releasable Attachment Mechanism (PFRAM), the STP-H2 Utilization payload installed, and the Service Module Debris Panels (SMDPs), the Spacehab SM and its stowed logistics and ISS Utilization payload items, and ISS hardware and Utilization payload items stowed in the Orbiter middeck lockers.

The SMDPs consist of three bundles of panels and an adapter. The three bundles will be attached to the adapter and the entire assembly will be transferred to Pressurized Mating Adatper-3 (PMA-3). The PFRAM, installed on the ICC, will be utilized to support the contingency return of a failed Pump Module (PM).

Added to the payload is crew rotation equipment, Extravehicular Activity (EVA) equipment and hardware, water transfer equipment, logistics items, critical spares, photographic equipment and supplies will be launched in the Orbiter middeck and Spacehab SM, and will be transferred to the ISS to support crew rotation, and docked and steady state ISS operations.

Secondary Payloads:

Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts’ Central Nervous System (ALTEA)

ALTEA will measure cosmic radiation passing through a crewmember’s head, while measuring the brain electrophysiological activity and the performance of the visual system. Furthermore, ALTEA will measure the particle flux in the U.S. Lab, being able to discriminate the type of particles, to measure their trajectories and the delivered energies.

This will provide in-depth information on the radiation level experienced and its impact on the nervous systems and visual perception. ALTEA will also develop possible countermeasures aimed at the possible functional central nervous system risks for long duration exploration missions.

Passive Observatories for Experimental Microbial Systems (POEMS)

POEMS will evaluate the effect of stress in the spaceflight environment on the generation of genetic variation within model microbial cells. POEMS canisters are currently on the ISS, and will be removed from cold storage and transferred to the Shuttle for return to Earth on 12A.1.

Perceptual Motor Deficits in Space (PMDIS)

The objective of PMDIS is to determine if perceptual motor deficits observed in previous missions are simply due to postural instability or actually represent central nervous system deficits.

Space Test Program-H2 (STP-H2)

STP-H2 is comprised of three independent deployable payloads located on top of the 12A.1 Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC). Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE) will determine total atmospheric density at low earth orbit altitudes, using two spheres, to enable better orbit determination and collision avoidance techniques.

Microelectromechanical System (MEMS)-Based Pico Satellite Inspector (MEPSI) will provide a proof of concept for inspection, servicing, and protection of a host satellite.

This flight will demonstrate a picosat propulsion system and camera inspection capability. Radar Fence Transponder (RAFT) will enable the Air Force-operated radar fence to calibrate transmit and receive signals with a cooperative picosat.

Payloads of opportunity:

Ram Burn Observation (RAMBO)

The objective of the RAMBO payload is to help calibrate the RAMBO satellite. This requires retrograde, posigrade, and out-of-plane burns. RAMBO will be performed only if propellant is available and a sufficient opportunity exists.

Maui Analysis of Upper-Atmospheric Injections (MAUI)

The objective of the MAUI payload is to obtain optical signatures of spacecraft plumes using optical telescope sensors and all-sky imagers at the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site (AMOS). The MAUI payload may collect data during any encounter opportunity when the Orbiter support activities can be planned to meet the criteria defined.

No unique onboard hardware is required to establish the controlled conditions for the cooperative passes. The MAUI payload observes retrograde OMS engine firings, various Angle-Of-Attack (AOA) PRCS and VRCS thruster firings, and Shuttle burns to reboost ISS.

These burns can be dedicated to MAUI or required by Shuttle. MAUI will only be performed if propellant is available and a sufficient overflight opportunity exists.

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