NASA Discusses STS-133 Mission Timeline Requirements And Guidelines

by Chris Gebhardt

With the MOD FRR (Mission Operations Directorate Flight Readiness Review) and the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) FRR complete, NASA is quickly approaching the final stretch of Discovery’s pad processing for her capstone mission. Among the various items to receive attention at these two FRRs were the various mission timelines that might play out during the STS-133/ULF-5 mission – including a nominal timeline and a Minimum Duration Flight timeline.

Nominal Mission Timeline Overview:

Following liftoff on FD-1, Discovery’s crew will perform the standard post-insertion activities, NC-1 course correction/phasing burn, SRMS (Shuttle Remote Manipulator System) powerup and checkout, PMM (Permanent Multipurpose Module) environmental checkouts, and FD-1 downlinks/downloads – including ET umbilical well photographs, ET hand-held video and stills, and WLES (Wing Leading Edge Sensor) data.

This will be followed by the standard inspections of Discovery’s RCC (Reinforced Carbon-Carbon) WLE (Wing Leading Edge) and Nose Cap panels and T0 umbilicals by the crew via the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System), Hi-Res digital imagery of the OMS Pods, and inspection of the Upper Flight Surfaces via the SRMS on FD-2.

This Flight Day will also include the NC2 and NC3 burns, EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) checkout, Centerline camera installation, Docking Ring extension, and Rendezvous Tools checkout.

Then, on FD-3, Discovery will rendezvous with and dock to the International Space Station after performing the customary R-bar Pitch Maneuver (RPM) to allow ISS crewmembers to photograph her underbelly TPS (Thermal Protection System) tiles.

Given a Monday, Nov. 1 launch at 1640 EDT, Discovery will dock to the ISS at ~13:13 EDT on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Following docking, the ISS crew will downlink all RPM photographs and ELC-4 (EXpress Logistics Carrier 4) will be unberthed from Discovery’s payload bay and installed on the S3 truss’s PAS. This installation will be accomplished by extracting ELC-4 from OV-103’s PLB using the SSMRS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System), handing off ELC-4 to the SRMS, the SSRMS walking-off from Node-3 to the Mobile Base Station (MBS), handing off ELC-4 back to SSRMS, and SSRMS installation of ELC-4 to PAS.

N2 transfer from OV-103 to ISS will also commence on FD-3 and the SSRMS will be walked-off to Node-2 for overnight stowage.

STS-133 Specific Articles:

On FD-4, the SSRMS will remove the OBSS from Discovery’s payload bay and hand it off to the SRMS. The SSRMS will then walk-off to the MBS where the MT (Mobile Transporter) will be reconfigured for translation.

Middeck transfers are scheduled to begin on FD-4 and EVA tool configuration will be undertaken in preparation for EVA-1 the following day. The ISS/Discovery crew will then review all EVA procedures for EVA-1 before Tim Kopra and Al Drew perform and O2 pre-breathe and campout in the Quest Airlock of the ISS.

FD-5 will see the first of two planned EVAs for the STS-133 crew. Scheduled to last approximately six hours thirty minutes, Kopra and Drew will work on the J612 cable, stow the failed Pump Model (which failed in late-July), work on equipment on the Z1 truss, relocate material back to the ISS airlock, work on the Starboard CETA Rail stub, and perform the JAXA message in a bottle experiment before re-entering the ISS.

For EVA-1, the SSRMS will support EVA operations from its base on the MBS PDGF (Power Data Grapple Fixture). Following the EVA, the SSRMS will be reconfigured for MT translation.

Middeck transfer will also continue on FD-5 and the CWC-I will be filled.

Finally, the MT will be translated from WS2 to WS3 for the overnight and the SSRMS will be walked-off by ground controllers from the MBS to Node-2.

Then, following the whirlwind of activity on FD-5, a historic milestone will be reached on FD-6 as the final permanent U.S. module is attached to the International Space Station.

Using the SSRMS, PMM Leonardo, the workhorse of the MPLM fleet, will be unberthed from Orbiter Discover and berthed to the Node-1 Nadir port.

One hour thirty minutes of time will also be set aside on FD-6 for a Focused Inspection (FI) of Discovery’s TPS in the unlikely event that serious launch or MMOD (Micro Meteoroid Orbiting Debris) damage is detected via the FD-2 OBSS inspections or the FD-3 RPM photography.

However, should the FI prove unnecessary, the 1.5 hours in the FD-6 timeline would be reassigned to Node 1 1553 jumper installation, Node 1 Nadir vestibule jumper installation, and PMM activation/ingress. Additionally, should more than the allotted time be required to complete the FI, the necessary time would be pulled from other areas of the mission timeline.

Joining the FI activity on FD-6 are the continuation of middeck transfers, EVA tool configuration, EVA procedures review, PMM vestibule pressurization, overnight campout in the Quest Airlock for Drew and Kopra, and the configuration of the SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dexter) by MCC-H.

FD-7 will then be devoted to the execution of the second and final planned EVA of the STS-133 mission.

Scheduled to last ~6.5 hours, EVA-2 will see the venting of the failed Pump Module, ELC-4 ExPCA MLI (Multi-Layer Insulation) removal, LWAPA retrieval and installation into Discovery’s Payload Bay, TS Stop stow, S3 MT Stop stow, Starboard CETA cart reconfiguration, JSB retrieval, SPDM CLPA1 installation, P3 CETA light installation, SPDM EP1 MLI removal, P1 RBVM MLI repair, P1 grapple beam troubleshooting, SSRMS elbow camera lens cover installation, Node-3 MLI removal, SPDM CLPA lens cover installation, and POA CLA lens cover installation.

Node-1 jumper installation and PMM activation/ingress will also occur on this day if they are not performed on FD-6; middeck transfers will also continue on this day.

Flight Day 8 for the STS-133 crew will see an O2 transfer from OV-103 to ISS (provided pre-launch O2 offloads do not preclude this activity). A GLACIER unit will be swapped between the ISS and Discovery – a task that will involve a MELFI sample transfer.

A “H2 Dome Transfer (foam from PMM) to middeck” task is also on the mission schedule for this day, as is a reboost of the ISS via Discovery’s Reaction Control System.

The crew will also enjoy some well-deserved off duty time on FD-8.

Then, on FD9, the crew will carry out the necessary steps for Discovery’s undocking from the International Space Station.

Following final middeck transfers between OV-103 and the ISS, and the transfer all STS-133 EVA equipment from the Quest Airlock back to Discovery, the crew will enjoy some more off duty time before bidding their ISS colleagues farewell and closing the hatches between Discovery and the ISS for the final time.

After a night’s sleep, Discovery and the STS-133 crew will depart the ISS with an undocking planned for an MET (Mission Elapsed Time) of 8 days 14 hours and 8 minutes. Discovery is scheduled to perform the customary fly around of the ISS as part of her departure before moving out “ahead” of the ISS.

The crew will spend the remainder of FD-10 performing a Late-Inspection of Discovery’s TPS before stowing the OBSS and powering down the SRMS. A potential “orbit adjust burn” is also on the schedule for FD-10.

EOM-1 (End of Mission -1 day) would then follow on FD-11, with cabin stow, Ku-Band antenna stow, and a water dump. However, the biggest activity of the day will be the Flight Control System checkout, RCS hot fire test, L-1 (Landing -1) comm checks, and WLEIDS deactivation.

Moreover, NASA will mark Discovery’s last scheduled full day in space with a special tribute on FD-11.

Then, if all goes to plan, and the weather is acceptable, MCC-H will give the STS-133 Flight Crew the go-ahead to deorbit Discovery during her 169th orbit of Earth on STS-133. 

While the exact times for the Deorbit Burn and Landing will vary based on the actual day and time of Discovery’s launch and actual orbital dynamics, the approximate time of the Deorbit Burn on orbit 169 (based on a Nov. 1 launch at 1640 EDT) would be at MET 10 days 17 hours 57 minutes (or 0937 EST) with a landing on orbit 170 at the Kennedy Space Center at MET 10 days 18 hours 59 minutes – or 1039 EST Friday, November 12, 2010.

If this timeline holds (in terms of calendar dates), STS-133 will mark the completion of the five Space Shuttle mission dedicated to assembly of the International Space Station in a one-year time span (STS-129 in November 2009 – STS-133 in November 2010).

The mission will also mark the completion of Shuttle flight operations for calendar year 2010 and the second flight of Discovery and the PMM Leonardo this year.

Minimum Duration Flight and Mission +1 Day:

While Discovery’s mission is planned as an 11+1+2 day flight (11 flight days + 1 mission extension day + 2 landing contingency days), the possibility always exists that a systems failure or crew illness could force a Minimum Duration Flight (MDF) scenario.

For STS-133, this would mean the elimination of both EVAs and five Flight Days from the mission timeline.

Under the agreed upon MDF timeline for STS-133/ULF-5, the first two FDs would carry out in an identical fashion to those under the nominal mission timeline. Then, from FD-3 on, the flight would support the completion of all CAT I mission objectives as referenced in the Reference Flight Rule ULF5_C2-15.

Under this rule, FD-3 would consists of rendezvous, RPM, docking, and ELC-4 unberth and installation to S3 nadir inboard PAS.

FD-4 would then require the unberthing and handoff of the OBSS by the SSRMS to the SRMS. The SSRMS’s cameras would then perform an inspection of the PMM’s PCBM (Passive Common Berthing Mechanism) before unberthing the PMM from Discovery and installing it to Node-1 Nadir.

The transfer of all mandatory and critical items per the ULF-5 Transfer List would also take place on FD-4.

FD-5 would then be used to perform a FI of Discovery’s TPS (if required) and minimal PMM activation. The crew would also receive some off duty time on this day before returning to Discovery and closing the hatches between Discovery and the Space Station.

Discovery would then undock on FD-6 with her Flight Crew stowing the OBSS for reentry and performing the customary EOM-1 activities as referenced in the nominal mission timeline overview.

The STS-133 crew would then deorbit Discovery and return to Earth on FD-7.

However, there is also the possibility that Mission Managers could decide to make use of the +1 day that the ULF-5 flight carries.

According the MOD FRR, “The +1 mission extension day may be used to accommodate docked contingencies.”

These docked contingencies include additional time necessary to complete all possible FI ops over the already baselined 1.5 hours, additional time needed to complete all CAT I IVA (Intra Vehicular Activities) objectives, and additional time needed to complete EVA ops.

(Lead Photograph: Larry Sullivan, and MaxQ Entertainment. Graphics: L2 STS-133 FRR presentations)

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