July 2006 Archives

Discovery is back

| No Comments

Discovery landsSpace shuttle Discovery landed safely last night (23:14 Melbourne time, 9:14 in the morning in Florida) at the Kennedy Space Center, ending mission STS-121. The mission achieved all its stated objectives, and the shuttle came back in perfect form, despite worries about a leak in a power unit (and the earlier worry about white markings on the heat shields).

It is expected that this will revitalise the shuttle program, with more lauches happening in the next few months. The next planned mission is STS-115, which will again deliver components to the Internacional Space Station. It will be the 19th shuttle flight to dock to the ISS, and it has no launch date set at this moment.

Why are the mission numbers in the wrong order? STS-121 has just landed; the last mission before that was STS-114, and the next is STS-115. Well, mission numbers are assigned when the mission is planned, years in advance. Intervening events can, and often do, change the order in which they are actually executed. A full list of missions, ordered chronologically, can be seen in NASA's Mission Archive (note that, within each year, missions are ordered from last to first).

View from a booster

| No Comments

There's a great video available in the website of the current shuttle mission (STS-121): it is the view of the launch from the camera mounted on the side of one of the boosters, looking towards the shuttle's wing.

The video shows the launch, climb and separation, and keeps on following the booster falling back to Earth until it gently lands on the ocean and stays there, bobbing up and down, waiting to be rescued.

To view it (Windows Media only), go to the STS-121 main page and click on "Right Forward Solid Rocket Booster Video" on the right column, underneath "Related multimedia". Or, if it's not there anymore, try clicking here.

Shuttle status

| No Comments

The shuttle has reached orbit with no problems, as I reported yesterday; now, external examinations of the heat shields (using a remotely operated camera) show that everything seems to be ok with the ship, and that it should have no problems during landing.

In one of the few "comic relief" moments of the last weeks at NASA, officials reported that white markings found on the wings of the shuttle seem to be bird droppings, which were already there before the launch and are expected to burn on re-entry. It is entirely possible that bird droppings made it into orbit in previous flights as well, but they wouldn't be noticed; the shuttle usually sits on the pad for quite a while before launch, and it makes a very large target for birds. The only difference is that people are paying much more attention to the shuttle these days...

Discovery launches

| No Comments

Discovery launch. Image credit: NASASTS-121 was launched today (04 July, Eastern US time) with no apparent problems, despite a crack in the insulation foam having been found days earlier. Discovery carries seven astronauts and will deliver supplies to the International Space Station; it will also test several newly-developed safety procedures.

This was the first shuttle launch in over a year, and a lot was (and still is) riding on it. A serious problem, if found, will almost certainly end the shuttle program with no new vehicle to replace it, which would severely affect the (already delayed) cronogram for finishing the ISS. Should a problem be found in the insulation while the shuttle is attached to the ISS, the plans call for the astronauts to be rescued with other vehicles (possibly the remaining shuttle, Atlantis) and for Discovery to be landed by remote control.

You can track the shuttle's location in real time here. It will probably be interesting to look at this tracking during the ISS docking maneuvers.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2006 is the previous archive.

August 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.