Launch: April 5, 2010
Time: 6:21 a.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: April 18 @ approx. 8:30 a.m.
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility
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Master Flight Plan
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Welcome to Spaceflight Now's live coverage of space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission to the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically; there is no need to reload the page.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7, 2010Traffic on the International Space Station's local area network has slowed downlink of multi-gigabyte heat shield inspection files, NASA officials said Wednesday. But no major problems have been seen so far as analysts prioritize their work to clear the shuttle Discovery's right wing first, allowing the astronauts to attach a massive cargo module to the space station overnight Wednesday.
Read our full story.
1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)Here's some of the latest video now available in our archive for Spaceflight Now+Plus subscribers:
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: SHUTTLE CREW WELCOMED ABOARD THE STATION PLAY
VIDEO: POST-DOCKING OF THE SHUTTLE BAY AND TAIL PLAY
VIDEO: DISCOVERY DOCKS TO THE SPACE STATION PLAY
VIDEO: SHUTTLE PERFORMS 360-DEGREE BACKFLIP PLAY
MORE: STS-131 VIDEO COVERAGE
MORE: HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO COVERAGE
1535 GMT (11:35 a.m. EDT)Commander Alan Poindexter just bid good night to Mission Control as the crew wraps up Flight Day 3.
1215 GMT (8:15 a.m. EDT)Our docking story has been expanded following today's mission status briefing.
1155 GMT (7:55 a.m. EDT)The space station's robotic arm has reached into Discovery's payload bay and plucked out Orbiter Boom Sensor System. The 50-foot-long then got handed over to the shuttle's arm this morning.
This bit of robotics work clears the inspection boom out of the bay, clearing the path for the Leonardo module's unberthing tomorrow.
The shuttle arm is unable to reach the boom while docked to the station, so the station arm has to be do the boom relocation work. The shuttle arm will hold the boom through the rest of the docked mission.
0914 GMT (5:14 a.m. EDT)The seven shuttle astronauts -- commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton, spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clay Anderson, robotics operator Stephanie Wilson, flight engineer Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki -- have been welcomed aboard the outpost by the six-person Expedition 23 resident crew.
Expedition 23 includes commander Oleg Kotov, NASA astronauts T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
This marks the first time in history that four women have been in space together. It's also the first time that two Japanese astronauts have been in orbit at the same time.
0912 GMT (5:12 a.m. EDT)HATCHES OPEN. The hatchway between Discovery and the space station was opened at 5:11 a.m. EDT, well ahead of schedule.
0810 GMT (4:10 a.m. EDT)Commander Alan Poindexter, manually flying Discovery from the shuttle's aft flight deck, guided the spaceplane to a picture-perfect docking with the International Space Station early Wednesday after performing a flawless, "radar failed" rendezvous.
Read our full story.
0802 GMT (4:02 a.m. EDT)The docking ring has been retracted and the hooks and latches have driven shut to firmly connect the shuttle to the space station. A series of leak checks between the docking ports will take the better part of the next two hours.
0753 GMT (3:53 a.m. EDT)Discovery's docking mechanism is pulling the two craft together.
0746 GMT (3:46 a.m. EDT)The relative motions of the shuttle and station will be allowed to damp out over the next few minutes by the spring-loaded docking system. Later, the hooks and latches will be closed to firmly join the two craft and Discovery's Orbiter Docking System docking ring will be retracted to form a tight seal.
The opening of hatches between the station and shuttle is expected in about two hours. That will be followed by a welcoming ceremony and safety briefing.
0745 GMT (3:45 a.m. EDT)Docking occurred right as scheduled at 3:44 a.m. EDT as the spacecraft flew in orbital darkness some 216 miles above the Caribbean Sea.
0744 GMT (3:44 a.m. EDT)CONTACT AND CAPTURE! Space shuttle Discovery has arrived at the International Space Station with the Leonardo cargo-delivery module that is packed with items large and small for the outpost, including a new crew sleeping compartment, a supercold laboratory freezer, an exercise machine, a window observation assembly, assorted experiment equipment and multiple racks holding bags of supplies.
0743 GMT (3:43 a.m. EDT)Discovery's thrusters are programmed to fire in a post-contact maneuver to force the two docking ports together. That procedure is being armed.
0742 GMT (3:42 a.m. EDT)The shuttle is closing at about 0.1 feet per second. Current distance now 10 feet.
0741 GMT (3:41 a.m. EDT)Just 15 feet separate the shuttle from the station.
0738 GMT (3:38 a.m. EDT)The final approach covering the last 30 feet is beginning.
0737 GMT (3:37 a.m. EDT)The alignment looks good between docking ports on Discovery and the space station.
0735 GMT (3:35 a.m. EDT)Range less than 50 feet.
0733 GMT (3:33 a.m. EDT)The docking mechanism in Discovery's payload bay is being powered up by the astronauts.
0731 GMT (3:31 a.m. EDT)The two spacecraft are flying in orbital darkness. Docking will occur just before the next sunrise.
0730 GMT (3:30 a.m. EDT)About 91 feet separate the shuttle and station, closing at 0.1 fps.
0728 GMT (3:28 a.m. EDT)The astronauts have been given a "go" for docking from Mission Control.
0725 GMT (3:25 a.m. EDT)The shuttle is 135 feet in front of the station complex now.
0723 GMT (3:23 a.m. EDT)The shuttle is being flown manually by commander Alan Poindexter. This is his second visit to the International Space Station, having served as the pilot on the STS-122 assembly mission that delivered the European Columbus laboratory module.
0719 GMT (3:19 a.m. EDT)About 200 feet to go.
0712 GMT (3:12 a.m. EDT)Discovery is 266 feet from the station and closing at 0.19 feet per second.
0712 GMT (3:12 a.m. EDT)The shuttle has reached a point directly in front of the station along the imaginary line called the velocity vector, or +V bar.
0707 GMT (3:07 a.m. EDT)Discovery is marking the arc from the point beneath the station to a point in front of the complex to align with the docking port on the Harmony module. Docking is about 45 minutes away.
0702 GMT (3:02 a.m. EDT)Station flight controllers report all is readiness for the docking.
0656 GMT (2:56 a.m. EDT)The pitch maneuver has been completed. Discovery is back in the orientation where it started, with the payload bay looking up at the station.
0654 GMT (2:54 a.m. EDT)The main engine nozzles of Discovery are facing the station now as the shuttle points its tail upward.
0652 GMT (2:52 a.m. EDT)This 360-degree, nose-first pirouette by Discovery gives the station crew about 100 seconds of quality photography time to snap detailed pictures of the orbiter's black tiles in the search for any launch impact damage.
0651 GMT (2:51 a.m. EDT)The formal photo-taking period has started for the Expedition crew positioned at windows in the Zvezda service module, now that the shuttle has rotated its underside in view of the station complex.
0650 GMT (2:50 a.m. EDT)Discovery is nose-up facing the station.
0649 GMT (2:49 a.m. EDT)The duo is formation-flying over Southeast Asia, soon to cross Australia.
0648 GMT (2:48 a.m. EDT)The rendezvous pitch maneuver -- the 360-degree flip -- is beginning. The shuttle is the under the control of commander Alan Poindexter, who is flying the ship from the aft flight deck.
As the shuttle's underside rotates into view, the station's crew will photograph Discovery's belly with handheld digital cameras equipped with 400- and 800-millimeter lenses as part of post-launch inspections of the heat shield.
The 800mm images should provide one-inch resolution for examination of landing gear door and external tank umbilical door seals. The 400mm will yield three-inch resolution.
After completing the RPM maneuver, Discovery will fly directly ahead of the space station with the shuttle's nose facing deep space and its cargo bay pointed at the lab complex. Then Poindexter will guide the spacecraft to a docking with a pressurized mating adapter attached to the Harmony connecting module.
0646 GMT (2:46 a.m. EDT)All of Discovery's upward-firing thrusters are inhibited to protect the space station from any pluming.
0644 GMT (2:44 a.m. EDT)The spacecraft are flying 213 miles over China at this moment.
0641 GMT (2:41 a.m. EDT)Station commander Oleg Kotov and astronaut T.J. Creamer are getting ready for their job to photograph Discovery's heat shield during the backflip. Kotov will have the 400mm lens and Creamer with the 800mm.
0639 GMT (2:39 a.m. EDT)The space shuttle is some 900 feet away and closing the gap toward the station at less than one foot per second now. That closure rate continues to decrease.
0628 GMT (2:28 a.m. EDT)Discovery is about 2,000 feet away from the International Space Station.
0623 GMT (2:23 a.m. EDT)Mission Control has given the shuttle crew a "go" for the backflip maneuver. The 360-degree flip should start in about 20 minutes.
0618 GMT (2:18 a.m. EDT)The last tiny course correction has been completed. This was a 7-second burn using the reaction control system thrusters.
0616 GMT (2:16 a.m. EDT)All continues to go well in today's rendezvous. The shuttle's trajectory sensor system has assumed control from the star trackers. Discovery is inside 5,500 feet now.
0606 GMT (2:06 a.m. EDT)The hand-held laser operated by the astronauts on the flight deck of Discovery shows the space station is 13,560 feet away.
0601 GMT (2:01 a.m. EDT)The shuttle crew has performed the second mid-course correction burns to tweak the flight path toward the International Space Station.
0544 GMT (1:44 a.m. EDT)Two hours from docking. The distance between the shuttle and the space station is 34,000 feet.
0527 GMT (1:27 a.m. EDT)The shuttle just completed the first of the available mid-course correction burns during this approach to the station. This was a 3-second burn.
0524 GMT (1:24 a.m. EDT)The shuttle is 49,500 feet from the station, closing at 3.8 mph.
0507 GMT (1:07 a.m. EDT)With about 9 miles separating Discovery from the International Space Station, the shuttle has performed the Terminal Initiation burn using the left-hand Orbital Maneuvering System engine. The 10-second firing changed the shuttle's velocity by 7.8 feet per second.
The TI burn puts the shuttle on a trajectory to directly intercept the orbiting station over the next orbit and a half. The burn is the latest in a series of maneuvers performed by Discovery during its two days of chasing the station since launch Monday morning.
Docking is anticipated at 3:44 a.m. EDT.
0448 GMT (12:48 a.m. EDT)Mission Control has radioed approval to the shuttle's crew for the Terminal Initiation burn that's now scheduled to occur at 1:06 a.m. EDT.
0425 GMT (12:25 a.m. EDT)One more shot at getting the Ku-band antenna to work in radar mode was unsuccessful.
The crew will press ahead with the rendezvous and docking using the "radar-failed" procedures, which the astronauts are trained and well-versed in performing. A spokeswoman in Mission Control says the crew had its most recent simulation session to practice docking without radar in mid-March.
"We have a whole suite of navigation and rendezvous sensors that we use normally in addition to the Ku radar," Mission Management Team chairman LeRoy Cain says. "In this case, we'll use those exclusively, to include the star trackers that we use for navigation, the handheld lasers as well as the trajectory control system, or TCS. So all of those systems are available and we don't anticipate any issues whatsoever with performing the radar-failed procedures for the rendezvous."
0415 GMT (12:15 a.m. EDT)Discovery pilot Jim Dutton talks about his role in the rendezvous and docking phases of the flight:
"I'll be up on the flight deck and for a good part of that I'm the procedure manager along with Clay. The two of us will be watching over the procedures, making sure we hit every line and at one point, after we've finished the terminal phase initiation maneuver, we swap out decks. Dex will take a break and he'll step out of the commander's seat and I get to jump in there for my big moment. I'll get to do some of the mid-course burns to make fine tuning adjustments as we come up underneath the space station.
"At about 1,000 feet, Dex will then take over from the aft part of the flight deck, flying out the windows and using the centerline camera. From thereon in essentially I'm primarily watching the systems of the shuttle, being prepared to know what our backup plan is if we have any failures and then watching over the nominal steps, just making sure we hit each one."
0410 GMT (12:10 a.m. EDT)The crew just performed a pulsing of the reaction control jets to refine the shuttle's trajectory. Discovery remains on track for docking around 3:44 a.m. EDT.
0357 GMT (11:57 p.m. EDT Tues.)Discovery is about 223,000 feet away from the International Space Station, closing at 31 feet per second.
0350 GMT (11:50 p.m. EDT Tues.)The latest version of the NASA Television schedule (Rev. B) can be downloaded here.
0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT Tues.)An orbit raising burn by Discovery's twin maneuvering engines has been completed successfully. This 13-second firing changed the shuttle's velocity by 21 feet per second.
0333 GMT (11:33 p.m. EDT Tues.)Cameras aboard the space station have spotted Discovery as a bright star in the distance. The two craft are 42 miles apart at present.
0245 GMT (10:45 p.m. EDT Tues.)Discovery commander Alan Poindexter previewed docking day in a pre-flight interview:
"We wake up in the morning of rendezvous day and get right to work setting up our tools and making sure that we have all the equipment we need for the rendezvous. The folks on the ground have been working hard up to this point to get us to the right point to execute the rendezvous.
"We do a series of burns or maneuvers to bring the shuttle up underneath the space station at about 1,000 feet. We fly directly below the station to a distance of about 600 feet and from there we'll execute the rendezvous pitch maneuver which allows the space station crew to image the orbiter's thermal protection system with some high powered cameras.
"We'll then manually fly the shuttle up in front of the station to a distance of about 400 and then slowly back it into the space station's docking port. That's all done manually from the aft cockpit and I've got a lot of help on the flight deck with some real professional crew members who are doing most of the hard work."
0202 GMT (10:02 p.m. EDT Tues.)An attempt to activate the space shuttle Discovery's radar system using the Ku-band antenna was not successful. The device just failed a self-test, which was expected. The crew will try again later tonight when the shuttle gets closer to the space station, Mission Control says.
0022 GMT (8:22 p.m. EDT Tues.)The wakeup call has been sounded to Discovery's crew for Flight Day 3.
This is docking day for the space shuttle, which will arrive at the International Space Station after a two-day chase since launch. Rendezvous operations will begin in about two hours. The Terminal Initiation burn is scheduled for 1:08 a.m. and the 360-degree backflip maneuver in expected to start at 2:42 a.m. EDT. Discovery should link up with the space station around 3:44 a.m. EDT.
Read our earlier status center coverage.
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