Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Space Shuttle Mission: STS-131


Shuttle Crew Busy with Heat Shield Inspections and Docking Preps

Space shuttle Discovery’s seven-member crew will spend their first full day in space today conducting normal scans of their spacecraft, preparing spacesuits for use later in the mission and readying the shuttle to dock to the International Space Station early on Wednesday.

The day will focus on using the robotic arm and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System extension to inspect Discovery's thermal protection system tiles and reinforced carbon-carbon heat shielding on the shuttle’s wings and nose cap. Discovery's Ku-Band communications system, used to transmit and receive high data rate communications such as television, is not operating. As a result, video of the inspection will be recorded aboard Discovery and transmitted to the ground after the shuttle docks with the station. Typically the inspection video is simultaneously transmitted live to the ground and recorded aboard the shuttle for later review.

Taking turns maneuvering the robotic arm from Discovery’s aft flight deck for the inspections will be Commander Alan G. Poindexter, Pilot James P. Dutton Jr. and Mission Specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

Dutton and Metcalf-Lindenburger will be at the controls of the shuttle robotic arm tonight to unberth the Orbiter Boom Sensor System from the starboard sill. The inspection uses cameras and lasers at the end of the boom to provide 3-D views of the orbiter. The data will be reviewed by experts on the ground to ensure the heat protection system is in good condition.

While the inspection takes place from Discovery's flight deck, Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson will be on the shuttle's middeck to prepare the spacesuits they will wear for their three planned spacewalks.

The rest of the day will include a check of the rendezvous tools the crew will use during Wednesday’s approach to the station.


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