Discovery is home, carrying her seven member crew back to the Kennedy Space Center, following a superb 15 day mission in space during STS-120.
The weather proved to be favorable for an opening landing attempt at the KSC in Florida, with the orbiter arriving back on Earth at 1:02pm local time. She has since been towed back to her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for deservicing.
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Extensive STS-120 Special Section on L2, including Flight Plans, ALL Handbooks and Checklists, Manuals, documentation and presentations. STS-122 to STS-127 documentation already available.
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Entry Team Flight Director Bryan Lunney and his team at the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston oversaw Discovery’s return to Earth, with the first milestone being the two minute deorbit burn – on time at 11:59 a.m. Discovery raced across the sky of the US heartland, traveling from the northwest to southeast, before arriving in Florida.
**560mb STS-120 Deorbit to Landing video available now on L2**
Flight Day 15 successfully conducted a hot fire of Discovery’s RCS (Reaction Control System) thrusters and flight control systems, in preparation for re-entry, which will mark the end to one of the longest shuttle missions.
The success of the mission has earned the praise of the shuttle top brass, although manager Wayne Hale prepped his team for today’s re-entry and landing by asking them to remain focused until wheels stop.
‘Has been a great mission, but is not over until wheels stop rolling. We must keep paying attention. (I am) proud of the team,’ noted the latest Shuttle Stand-up/Integration report. ‘This demonstrates the value of human space flight, being able to do this sort of work ”on the fly”’.
‘Someone wrote that they wished Galileo had had some EVA crewmembers to deploy their antenna. This shows what you can do with a bunch of smart people, a good plan, and a couple of really good guys out in suits to execute that plan. Have a lot of work ahead of us.’
Discovery’s new software:
Aiding Discovery’s return, the orbiter has a new software load onboard, named OI-32 (Operational Increment number 32), which includes a variety of increased safety modifications for landing.
The new OI-32 load has been included into the Primary Avionics Software System (PASS) – with processes data from all control activities. In the event of a PASS failure, there is a backup system (BFS – Backup Flight Software).
Noted as ‘major new capabilities’ in the 47 page STS-120 Space Shuttle Systems Engineering and Integration Office FRR presentation (on L2) – as previously revealed on this site – OI-32 includes a long-awaited upgrade to the BFS, notably bringing it up to pace with the PASS capabilities. Previous to OI-32, many capabilities would be lost in the unlikely scenario that all four PASS computers failed, and the crew were forced to use the BFS.
Prior to this modification, the crew would lose a number of displays and display drivers via BFS, including the loss of the HUD (Heads Up Display) overlay that can be seen on videos of approach and landing.
Via a BFS landing – as the crew train for in simulation – the Commander and Pilot would have to rely on the PAPI and BALL BAR – losing the HUD cues, such as airspeed, altitude, glide slope, velocity vector. This is no longer the case.
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‘Enhanced crew situational awareness: Added phase tailored PASS 6X Traj Displays. Creates first stage, second stage, and RTLS trajectory displays similar to BFS to replace the current PASS 6X Traj display. Provides a PASS capability to assess trajectory performance throughout the ascent powered flight phases.
‘Added BFS Head Up Display (HUD) Capability. Adds HUD functionality to BFS Flight Software for use post BFS engage during MM305 and MM603. Provides the crew with a runway overlay allowing rapid assessment and correction of navigation errors and insures consistency between PASS and BFS flight techniques.
‘Enabled Alpha Mach Indicator (AMI) and Altitude Vertical Velocity Indicator (AVVI) for BFS Ascents. Allows BFS to display AMI and AVVI data on the MEDS A/E Primary Flight Display (PFD) during powered ascent to provide the same composite flight instrumentation data and information as PASS.’
However, such is the clean flight of Discovery on STS-120, Commander Pam Melroy and Pilot George Zamka, can expect a trouble-free re-entry, before taking over for the final leg of landing.
Flight Day 15 saw no major issues with the orbiter, importantly noting that ‘there were no WLEIDS (Wing Leading Edge Impact Detection Sensor) indications prior to battery depletion,’ following the Late Inspections of the previous day.
Those Late Inspections noted 62 ROIs (Regions Of Interest) with only 10 requiring a closer evaluation. All of Discovery’s TPS (Thermal Protection System) was subsequently cleared for entry.
Such is the healthy state of Discovery’s TPS, the only item that received any notable attention was the MMOD hit to the orbiter’s window number 2 – which also was cleared as ok for re-entry within a matter of hours.
‘At approximately MET 012/04:15 the crew reported that they noticed an MMOD strike to the thermal pane of window 2 (CDR center window),’ noted the Mission Management Team. ‘They reported the impact to be approximately 3mm in diameter. Pictures show that the impact is near the top left corner of the window. The thermal pane is not considered failed. Orbiter has cleared the window for entry.’
Also, an issue with Discovery’s Flash Evaporator System (FES) is not deemed as a problem: ‘FES Feedline HTR A STR 2 off nominal – MER (Mission Evaluation Room) shows working fine and available for use. Was due to moving stagnant water and cold slugs hitting the thermostats,’ noted L2 information.
‘Flash Evaporator Feedline A Hiload Line Heater 2 failed ON: Temperatures were trending up for about an hour. There was concern that after an hour failed on, it could get boiloff in the line and cause heater failure. EECOM decided to select Flash Evap Feedline A Heater 1. Temperatures are now back to normal,’ added another MMT presentation.
‘Thermal response is believed to be an explained condition as the topping flowed more water and the vehicle sloshed some cold slugs of water by the thermostats. The OPS team is free to use either heater string.’
L2 members: All documentation and quotes – from which the above article has quoted snippets – is available in full in the related L2 sections, updated live.
**STARLIGHT: NEW STS-117 MISSION REVIEW MUSIC VIDEO** – STS-118 Mission review video also available.
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