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STS-120: The programs

In advance of shuttle Discovery's STS-120 mission to the station, managers from both programs discuss the flight.


STS-120: The mission

Discovery's trip to the station will install the Harmony module and move the P6 solar wing truss. The flight directors present a detailed overview of STS-120.

 Part 1 | Part 2

STS-120: Spacewalks

Five spacewalks are planned during Discovery's STS-120 assembly mission to the station. Lead spacewalk officer Dina Contella previews the EVAs.

 Full briefing
 EVA 1 summary
 EVA 2 summary
 EVA 3 summary
 EVA 4 summary
 EVA 5 summary

The Discovery crew

The Discovery astronauts, led by commander Pam Melroy, meet the press in the traditional pre-flight news conference.


STS-69: The Dog Crew

Astronauts flying aboard shuttle Endeavour in September 1995 called themselves the Dog Crew, a lighthearted twist to their complicated mission to launch and then retrieve a pair of satellites.


Riding on Endeavour

Now you can take a virtual trip aboard shuttle Endeavour's recent launch thanks to video cameras mounted inside the ship's cockpit as well as outside on the twin solid rocket boosters and external tank.

 Full Coverage

"The Time of Apollo"

This stirring 1970s documentary narrated by Burgess Meredith pays tribute to the grand accomplishments of Apollo as men left Earth to explore the Moon and fulfill President Kennedy's challenge to the nation.


"Apollo 17: On The Shoulders of Giants"

Apollo's final lunar voyage is relived in this movie. The film depicts the highlights of Apollo 17's journey to Taurus-Littrow and looks to the future Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and shuttle programs.


Traveling on Freedom 7

Fly with Alan Shepard during his historic journey into space with this documentary that takes the viewer along as an invisible companion to America's first astronaut.


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Recoverable craft shot into space for science mission

Posted: September 15, 2007

Russia launched a recoverable capsule crammed with more than 1,300 pounds of international scientific and engineering test experiments on Friday to begin a 12-day excursion in space.

The Foton M3 capsule, loaded with an array of Russian and European payloads, was launched at 1100 GMT (7:00 a.m. EDT) aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Less than nine minutes later, the 14,000-pound spacecraft separated from the Soyuz upper stage and entered an orbit nearly 200 miles above Earth.

The capsule will complete about 190 orbits of Earth before it fires retrorockets to slow the craft for re-entry. A 5,500-pound return capsule will parachute to a landing along the Russia-Kazakhstan border Sept. 26.

Experiments inside the spacecraft will largely focus on technology demonstrations, biology investigations, material sciences, fluid physics, and the exposure of materials to the harsh environment of space.

Attached to the forward end of the Foton craft is a 79-pound experiment to test an innovative "space mail" method of returning small capsules from orbit.

Designed and built with the help of more than 450 students across Europe, the Young Engineers' Satellite 2 mission will attempt to slingshot a small recoverable capsule from space into Earth's atmosphere.

The mission is managed by Delta-Utec, a Dutch company specializing in space tether technologies.

A carrier called FLOYD on the Foton capsule will unreel nearly 19 miles of tether material in the early morning hours Sept. 25. A 12-pound craft called Fotino and a disposable instrumentation box known as MASS will be attached to the end of the tether, which is as thin as a typical fishing line.

Fotino will fly ahead and below the Foton spacecraft during much the automated two-and-a-half hour activation and deployment process. At the time of Fotino's release, the capsule will be in a gravity-induced backward swing relative to Foton, according to Michiel Kruijff, technical director for Delta-Utec and lead engineer for the YES2 mission.

The tether system will slow Fotino by about 224 miles per hour, enough to cause the spherical capsule to drop from orbit and dip into the atmosphere to land in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, Kruijff said.

Once on the ground, radio beacons on Fotino will broadcast the capsule's location to recovery teams. One of the beacons was hardened to survive a potential parachute failure, Kruijff said.

Fotino carries several sets of sensors to measure the unique environment it will experience. Data from the sensors will be retrieved after landing.

"We have focused our results on the engineering challenge, so the results are secondary for us," Kruijff said of the instrument package. "But we thought it important to show that our capsule can carry and support a significant and complex payload."

Fotino will become the smallest spacecraft to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, and the nearly 20-mile length of the tether will make it the longest ever flown in space.

Tethered delivery systems could provide opportunities for inexpensive return options for small payloads in orbit. Engineers have considered using such systems to return equipment from the international space station, but Kruijff said safety issues will likely thwart those concepts.

"Space mail will probably not be implemented immediately due to the current space station issues," Kruijff said. "But the door is then again wide open for other applications."

Another payload aboard the Foton carries a habitat for newts, geckos and snails, which will be extensively studied by scientists before and after the mission. The experiment is jointly managed by the NASA's Ames Research Center and Russia's Institute for Biomedical Problems.

A similar payload was launched aboard the previous Foton mission in 2005, but the this year's flight will help validate results from previous experiments, according to Michael Skidmore, project manager for NASA's contribution to the Foton M3 mission.

"NASA's long-term goal is to use simple, easily maintained species to determine the biological responses to the rigors of spaceflight, including the virtual absence of gravity," said Kenneth Souza, project scientist for the mission.

Another experiment provided by the European Space Agency and Germany will probe the effects of weightlessness and radiation on fish and single-celled organisms.

A total of 40 experiments from scientists in Europe, Canada, Russia and the United States comprise the Foton spacecraft's payload.