Space Shuttle Discovery: Spacecraft profile

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Space Shuttle Discovery (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-103) is one of the three currently operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, the space agency of the United States. The other two are Atlantis and Endeavour.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-124 crew head toward Earth-orbitSpace Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-124 crew head toward Earth-orbit

When first flown in 1984, Discovery became the third operational orbiter, and is now the oldest orbiter in service. Discovery has performed both research and International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions.

NASA's Space Shuttle, officially called the Space Transportation System (STS), is the spacecraft currently used by the United States government for its human spaceflight missions. At launch, it consists of a rust-colored external tank (ET), two white, slender Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), and the orbiter, a winged spaceplane which is the space shuttle in the narrow sense.

The orbiter carries astronauts and payload such as satellites or space station parts into low earth orbit, into the Earth's upper atmosphere or thermosphere. Usually, five to seven crew members ride in the orbiter. The payload capacity is 22,700 kg (50,000 lb). When the orbiter's mission is complete it fires its Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) thrusters to drop out of orbit and re-enters the lower atmosphere. During the descent and landing, the shuttle orbiter acts as a glider, and makes a completely unpowered ("dead stick") landing.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (14 June 2008) --- Space Shuttle Discovery touches down on runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, concluding the 14-day STS-124 mission to the International Space Station. Onboard are NASA astronauts Mark Kelly, commander; Ken Ham, pilot; Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Karen Nyberg, Garrett Reisman and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, all mission specialists. The main landing gear touched down at 11:15:19 a.m. (EDT) on June 14, 2008. The nose landing gear touched down at 11:15:30 a.m. and wheel stop was at 11:16:19 a.m. During the mission, Discovery's crew installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's large Kibo laboratory and its remote manipulator system leaving a larger space station and one with increased science capabilities.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (14 June 2008) --- Space Shuttle Discovery touches down on runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, concluding the 14-day STS-124 mission to the International Space Station. Onboard are NASA astronauts Mark Kelly, commander; Ken Ham, pilot; Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Karen Nyberg, Garrett Reisman and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, all mission specialists. The main landing gear touched down at 11:15:19 a.m. (EDT) on June 14, 2008. The nose landing gear touched down at 11:15:30 a.m. and wheel stop was at 11:16:19 a.m. During the mission, Discovery's crew installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's large Kibo laboratory and its remote manipulator system leaving a larger space station and one with increased science capabilities.

Description

The shuttle is the first orbital spacecraft designed for partial reusability. It carries payloads to low Earth orbit, provides crew rotation for the International Space Station (ISS), and performs servicing missions. The orbiter can also recover satellites and other payloads from orbit and return them to Earth, but this capacity has not been used often. However, it has been used to return large payloads from the ISS to Earth, as the Russian Soyuz spacecraft has limited capacity for return payloads. Each Shuttle was designed for a projected lifespan of 100 launches or 10 years operational life. The man responsible for the design of the STS was Maxime Faget, who had also overseen the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft designs. The crucial factor in the size and shape of the Shuttle Orbiter was the requirement that it be able to accommodate the largest planned commercial and classified satellites, and have the cross-range recovery range to meet classified USAF missions requirement for a one-around abort for a polar launch. Factors involved in opting for 'reusable' solid rockets and an expendable fuel tank included the desire of the Pentagon to obtain a high-capacity payload vehicle for satellite deployment, and the desire of the Nixon administration to reduce the costs of space exploration by developing a spacecraft with reusable components.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (11 June 2008) --- A view of the Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (11 June 2008) --- A view of the Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.

Six air-worthy shuttles have been built; the first orbiter, Enterprise, was not built for space flight, and was used only for testing purposes. Five space-worthy orbiters were built: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launch in 1986, and Endeavour was built as a replacement. Columbia broke apart during re-entry in 2003.

Each Space Shuttle is a partially reusable launch system that is composed of three main assemblies: the reusable Orbiter Vehicle (OV), the expendable external tank (ET), and the two partially-reusable solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The tank and boosters are jettisoned during ascent; only the orbiter goes into orbit. The vehicle is launched vertically like a conventional rocket, and the orbiter glides to a horizontal landing, after which it is refurbished for reuse.

At times, the orbiter itself is referred to as the space shuttle. Technically, this is a misnomer, as the actual "Space Transportation System" (space shuttle) is the combination of the orbiter, the external tank (ET), and the two partially-reusable solid rocket boosters. Combined, these are referred to as the "Stack".

Orbiter vehicle

The orbiter resembles an aircraft with double-delta wings, swept 81° at the inner leading edge, and 45° at the outer leading edge. Its vertical stabilizer's leading edge is swept back at a 50° angle. The four elevons, mounted at the trailing edge of the wings, and the rudder/speed brake, attached at the trailing edge of the stabilizer, with the body flap, control the orbiter during descent and landing. The orbiter has a large payload bay measuring 15 feet (4.6 m) by 60 feet (18.3 m) comprising most of the fuselage.

Three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) are mounted on the orbiter's aft fuselage in a triangular pattern. The three engines can swivel 10.5 degrees up and down, and 8.5 degrees from side to side during ascent to change the direction of their thrust and steer the shuttle as well as push. The orbiter structure is made primarily from aluminum alloy, although the engine thrust structure is made from titanium (alloy).

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-124 crew head toward Earth-orbit and a scheduled link-up with the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A occurred at 5:02 p.m. (EDT). The STS-124 mission is the 26th in the assembly of the International Space Station. It is the second of three flights launching components to complete JAXA's Kibo laboratory. During the mission, the shuttle crew will install Kibo's large Japanese Pressurized Module and its remote manipulator system. Onboard are astronauts Mark Kelly, commander; Ken Ham, pilot; Karen Nyberg, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Greg Chamitoff and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, all mission specialists. Chamitoff will join Expedition 17 in progress to serve as a flight engineer aboard the station.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-124 crew head toward Earth-orbit and a scheduled link-up with the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A occurred at 5:02 p.m. (EDT). The STS-124 mission is the 26th in the assembly of the International Space Station. It is the second of three flights launching components to complete JAXA's Kibo laboratory. During the mission, the shuttle crew will install Kibo's large Japanese Pressurized Module and its remote manipulator system. Onboard are astronauts Mark Kelly, commander; Ken Ham, pilot; Karen Nyberg, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Greg Chamitoff and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, all mission specialists. Chamitoff will join Expedition 17 in progress to serve as a flight engineer aboard the station.

Solid Rocket Boosters

Two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) each provide 12.5 million Newtons (2.8 million lbf) of thrust at liftoff, which is 83% of the total thrust needed for liftoff. The SRBs are jettisoned two minutes after launch at a height of about 45.7 km (150,000 feet), and then deploy parachutes and land in the ocean to be recovered. The SRB cases are made of steel about 1.3 cm (½ inch) thick. Flight systems

Early shuttle missions took along the GRiD Compass, arguably one of the first laptop computers. The Compass sold poorly, as it cost at least US$8000, but offered unmatched performance for its weight and size. NASA was one of its main customers.

The shuttle was one of the earliest craft to use a computerized fly-by-wire digital flight control system. This means no mechanical or hydraulic linkages connect the pilot's control stick to the control surfaces or reaction control system thrusters.

A primary concern with digital fly-by-wire systems is reliability. Much research went into the shuttle computer system. The shuttle uses five identical redundant IBM 32-bit general purpose computers (GPCs), model AP-101, constituting a type of embedded system. Four computers run specialized software called the Primary Avionics Software System (PASS). A fifth backup computer runs separate software called the Backup Flight System (BFS). Collectively they are called the Data Processing System (DPS).

The design goal of the shuttle's DPS is fail operational/fail safe reliability. After a single failure, the shuttle can still continue the mission. After two failures, it can still land safely.

The four general-purpose computers operate essentially in lockstep, checking each other. If one computer fails, the three functioning computers "vote" it out of the system. This isolates it from vehicle control. If a second computer of the three remaining fails, the two functioning computers vote it out. In the rare case of two out of four computers simultaneously failing (a two-two split), one group is picked at random.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (11 June 2008) --- A nadir view of the Space Shuttle Discovery's crew cabin and the forward section of the payload bay soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (11 June 2008) --- A nadir view of the Space Shuttle Discovery's crew cabin and the forward section of the payload bay soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.

The Backup Flight System (BFS) is separately developed software running on the fifth computer, used only if the entire four-computer primary system fails. The BFS was created because although the four primary computers are hardware redundant, they all run the same software, so a generic software problem could crash all of them. Embedded system avionic software is developed under totally different conditions from public commercial software, the number of code lines is tiny compared to a public commercial software, changes are only made infrequently and with extensive testing, and many programming and test personnel work on the small amount of computer code. However in theory it can still fail, and the BFS exists for that contingency. And while BFS will run in parallel with PASS, to date, BFS has never been engaged to take over control from PASS during any shuttle mission.

The software for the shuttle computers is written in a high-level language called HAL/S, somewhat similar to PL/I. It is specifically designed for a real time embedded system environment.

The IBM AP-101 computers originally had about 424 kilobytes of magnetic core memory each. The CPU could process about 400,000 instructions per second. They have no hard disk drive, and load software from magnetic tape cartridges.

In 1990, the original computers were replaced with an upgraded model AP-101S, which has about 2.5 times the memory capacity (about 1 megabyte) and three times the processor speed (about 1.2 million instructions per second). The memory was changed from magnetic core to semiconductor with battery backup.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- Norm Knight (left), STS-124 ascent flight director, passes on a request to astronaut Terry Virts who communicates with the Space Shuttle Discovery crew from the Spacecraft Communicator (CAPCOM) console in the Space Shuttle Flight Control Room, part of Houston's Mission Control Center. Several hundred miles away in Florida, the Space Shuttle Discovery crew was getting positioned in the crew cabin of the shuttle on the launch pad, prior to a successful Saturday afternoon launch.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (31 May 2008) --- Norm Knight (left), STS-124 ascent flight director, passes on a request to astronaut Terry Virts who communicates with the Space Shuttle Discovery crew from the Spacecraft Communicator (CAPCOM) console in the Space Shuttle Flight Control Room, part of Houston's Mission Control Center. Several hundred miles away in Florida, the Space Shuttle Discovery crew was getting positioned in the crew cabin of the shuttle on the launch pad, prior to a successful Saturday afternoon launch.

History

The spacecraft takes its name from previous ships of exploration named Discovery, primarily HMS Discovery, the sailing ship that accompanied famous explorer James Cook on his third and final major voyage. Others include Henry Hudson's ship Discovery which he used in 1610–1611 to search for a Northwest Passage, and RRS Discovery, a vessel used for expeditions to Antarctica in 1901-1904 by Scott and Shackleton (and still preserved as a museum). The shuttle shares a name with Discovery One, the fictional Jupiter spaceship from the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010.

Discovery was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. The second and third Hubble service missions were also conducted by Discovery. She has also launched the Ulysses probe and three TDRS satellites. Discovery has been chosen twice as the return to flight orbiter, first in 1988 as the return to flight orbiter after the 1986 Challenger disaster, and then for the twin return to flight missions in July 2005 and July 2006 after the 2003 Columbia disaster. Discovery also carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 on October 29, 1998, making him the oldest human being to venture into space.

Had the planned missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base for the United States Department of Defense gone ahead, Discovery would have flown these missions.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (8 June 2008) --- Astronauts Mike Fossum (bottom) and Ron Garan, both STS-124 mission specialists, participate in the mission's third scheduled session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 33-minute spacewalk, Fossum and Garan exchanged a depleted Nitrogen Tank Assembly for a new one, removed thermal covers and launch locks from the Kibo laboratory, reinstalled a repaired television camera onto the space station's left P1 truss, and retrieved samples of a dust-like substance from the left Solar Alpha Rotary Joint for analysis by experts on the ground.Space Shuttle Discovery STS-124: (8 June 2008) --- Astronauts Mike Fossum (bottom) and Ron Garan, both STS-124 mission specialists, participate in the mission's third scheduled session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 33-minute spacewalk, Fossum and Garan exchanged a depleted Nitrogen Tank Assembly for a new one, removed thermal covers and launch locks from the Kibo laboratory, reinstalled a repaired television camera onto the space station's left P1 truss, and retrieved samples of a dust-like substance from the left Solar Alpha Rotary Joint for analysis by experts on the ground.

Current status

Discovery is currently in the Orbiter Processing Facility for post-flight processing after the successful completion of STS-124. The next flight of Discovery will be STS-119. Rollover to the VAB is tentatively scheduled for January 5, 2009. Flights

Discovery has flown 35 flights, spent 310,6 days in space, completed 4,888 orbits, and flown 117,433,618 miles (195,938,294 km) in total, as of June 2008. Discovery is the orbiter fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet. Discovery flew all three "return to flight" missions after the Challenger and Columbia disasters: STS-26 in 1988, STS-114 in 2005, and STS-121 in 2006.

* STS-41-D: First flight.

* STS-51-D: Carried first sitting United States Member of Congress into space, Senator Jake Garn (R-UT).

* STS-26: Return to space after Challenger disaster (STS-51-L).

* STS-31: Launch of Hubble Space Telescope.

* STS-60: First Russian launched in an American spacecraft (Sergei Krikalev).

* STS-95: Second flight of John Glenn, oldest man in space and third sitting Member of Congress to enter space.

* STS-92: The 100th Space Shuttle Mission.

* STS-114: Return to space after Columbia disaster (STS-107).

* STS-121: First Shuttle launch on the 4th of July Holiday, Return to Flight mission.

* STS-116: First night time launch of a shuttle since the Columbia disaster. Last Shuttle launch from LC-39B

* STS-120: Longest mission so far for this space shuttle.

Decommissioning of Space Shuttle Discovery

According to the current schedule, Space Shuttle Discovery will be decommissioned in 2010. If the Contingency Logistic Flight STS-133 by Endeavour is not flown, Discovery will be the last space shuttle to fly on mission STS-132. NASA expects to launch the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle on the new Ares I rocket by 2014.

Source: wikipedia.org

More photos: Space Shuttle Discovery photo galleries

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