|STS-116 Flight Days 11-14
||[Dec. 27th, 2006|11:48 pm]
The last part of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116) mission went smoothly.|
On Flight Day 11, Discovery undocked with the International Space Station. Suni Williams, who went up into space aboard Discovery, became a part of the ISS crew as she started her 6 month stay. Thomas Reiter joined the Discovery crew from the ISS as he returned to Earth after 6 months on the ISS.
On Flight Day 12, Thermal Protection System inspections were done to verify no micrometeorite debris hits occurred to the TPS system during docked operations with the ISS. It didn't take too long to give Discovery a clean bill of health for reentry.
During Flight Day 12 and 13, three small satellites were released from Discovery's payload bay:
MEPSI (Micro-Electromechanical System-Based PICOSAT Inspector) was deployed December 20 at 7:19 PM EST (0019 GMT December 21). The satellite demonstrates how well autonomous low-powered small satellites can inspect larger space vehicles using small camera systems.
RAFT (Radar Fence Transponder) was deployed December 20 at 8:58 PM EST (0158 GMT December 21). The satellite, built by students of the U.S. Naval Academy, tests the Space Surveillance Radar Fence and experimental communications transponders.
ANDE (Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment) was deployed December 21 at 1:23 PM EST (1823 GMT December 21) and is designed to measure the density and composition of low earth orbit atmosphere in an effort to better understand how drag affects objects orbiting in low earth orbit.
On Flight Day 14, the weather was just good enough for the second landing opportunity to the Kennedy Space Center that the orders for deorbit burn were given and Discovery's crew of Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham, Bob Curbeam, and Christer Fuglesang and Thomas Reiter (European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts) were on their way home.
A safe landing occurred and the astronauts got to enjoy Christmas with their families.
The next Space Shuttle mission is STS-117 (Atlantis), scheduled for launch no earlier than March 15, 2007. The purpose of the mission is to deliver the starboard S3 and S4 truss segments and the starboard side SARJ (solar array alpha joint). The mission is a mirror of the STS-115 mission where STS-115 crew aboard Atlantis delivered the port side P3/P4 and SARJ pieces.
Following STS-117 is the STS-118 mission (launch no earlier than June 28, 2007) with the S5 starboard side spacer truss segment (a mirror mission of the just-completed STS-116 flight that delivered the port side P5 truss spacer segment). STS-118 will mark Endeavour's return to flight after major orbiter upgrades/modifications and marks the return of NASA trying to launch an educator into space.
In January 1986, Christa McAuliffe was aboard the ill-fated Challenger when it disintegrated during liftoff. Barbara Morgan will be launching with the STS-118 crew as an "Educator Astronaut" and will try to deliver the lessons from space that McAuliffe had planned to do almost 21 years ago.