Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Discovery's Crew Inspects Thermal Tiles

The crew aboard Discovery spent today inspecting the thermal protective tiles which cover the ship for any signs of damage from their predawn launch on Monday.

The multi-hour inspections of the wing leading edges, nose cap and belly could not be witnessed live on the ground due to the loss of the shuttle's video antenna known as the Ku-band.

Instead, the crew recorded the video inspection via six small tapes which run 40 minutes each.

After Discovery Wednesday morning docking with the International Space Station, the crew will use the complex's own Ku-band to download the high quality video survey.

After Discovery arrived into orbit yesterday morning, the crew opened the ship dual bay doors and then worked to deploy the high gain antenna. However, an unknown technical issue prevented the antenna from rotating out and over the starboard front corner of the payload bay.

Teams on the ground are trouble shooting the issue, and will spend today reworking the flight plan due to the antenna's loss on this flight.

Mission control south of Houston informed the crew via email, "As you know, Ku is currently failed in COMM Mode for uplink and downlink. The status of RADAR Mode is unknown until you try it out on FD3. The impacts for the loss of COMM Mode are: Loss of Shuttle OCA capability until docked, when you can use ISS assets. Loss of all shuttle downlink video. Increased ratty comm (we normally use K-band to fill in when we have S-band ratty com)".

As the thermal inspections continued from the aft flight deck, mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson were on the middeck checking out their spacesuits and tools which they will use during three planned orbital walks after docking with the station.

The crew will head to bed just after noon EDT today, and are scheduled to awake at 8:21 pm to begin operations which will see Discovery slowly move in and dock tomorrow at 3:44 am as Discovery soars 220 miles above earth on her 31st orbit.

Discovery's crew of seven includes commander Alan Poindexter, pilot James P. Dutton Jr., and mission specialists Mastracchio, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Naoko Yamazaki (Japan), Stephanie Wilson and Anderson.

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