Crew inspects shuttle, but data downlink has to wait
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: April 6, 2010
The Discovery astronauts carried out a detailed inspection of the shuttle's carbon composite nose cap and wing leading edge panels early Tuesday, storing video files on board because of a Ku-band antenna failure that is preventing high-speed data transmission to mission control.
Each 40-minute tape used to store the inspection data will be converted into a 7.2-gigabyte digital file for transmission to Earth using the Ku-band communications system aboard the International Space Station. Jones said five to six tapes were required, resulting in about 40 gigabytes of data that will be downlinked after docking early Wednesday.
"One of the biggest impacts we have suffered as a result (of the Ku-band antenna failure) is we haven't had a lot of the high rate data exchange with video, you're not going to see any of that, we haven't been able to get that down to the ground and we can't get it back up to the orbiter itself, either," he told reporters.
"We have been working very hard to overcome what the loss of the Ku antenna has done to our flight-day-two inspections, which we just finished accomplishing. The files that we normally send down, video files that the ground damage assessment team is looking at, that usually is coming down for the most part in real time and it's coming down normally through the Ku system.
"Since we don't have that, what we have put in place is a file conversion process
where we're getting these video files and putting them on a tape and converting them
to a digital file that we're going to downlink once we get docked to the
International Space Station. So once we get docked, we're going to get those files
to the ground as soon as possible."
Engineers are still assessing how to carry out a second, "late" inspection that is normally conducted after the shuttle undocks from the space station. Without an operational Ku-band antenna system, Jones said the crew likely will carry out the second inspection while still docked to the lab complex.
The only other major Ku-related change in the crew's flight plan - aside from the loss of routine television views from the shuttle, email, remote commanding and mission control uplinks - involves procedures that will be used during the final stages of Discovery's rendezvous with the space station early Wednesday.
"That's a big day, obviously, getting docked with the International Space Station," Jones said. "That's our next major milestone. We had a chance to talk to the crew about radar failed procedures. We ... don't expect that radar to be functioning tomorrow. We're going to give it a shot, we're going to see if it actually comes up. If it does, we will use it appropriately. But if it doesn't, we've got procedures already built into our checklists on how to perform a rendezvous without that Ku radar available."
The last time a shuttle crew had to carry out a Ku-failed rendezvous was in 2000. But Jones said astronauts routinely train for dockings without a working radar.
"The (Discovery) crew, right before they launched, their last stand-alone (simulation) session they had, roughly about two weeks ago, they walked through this exact scenario, performing a rendezvous without the radar," Jones said. "So they're very familiar with it. ... We are very comfortable where we're at."
Along with inspecting the shuttle's heat shield Tuesday, the astronauts also checked out the spacesuits that will be used for three planned spacewalks during the docked phase of the mission to replace ammonia coolant tanks.
Commander Alan Poindexter and his six crewmates plan to go to bed around 12:21 p.m.
Wakeup is scheduled for 8:21 p.m. The rendezvous timeline will being just after 10
p.m. and by 1:06 a.m. Wednesday, Discovery should be in position to begin the final
phase of the rendezvous procedure, trailing the station by about nine miles. Docking
is expected around 3:44 a.m.
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