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The Mission




Orbiter: Discovery
Mission: STS-131
Payload: Leonardo
Launch: April 5, 2010
Time: 6:21 a.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: April 20 @ 9:08 a.m. EDT
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility

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Shuttle Discovery docks to space station right on time
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: April 7, 2010


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Commander Alan Poindexter, manually flying Discovery from the shuttle's aft flight deck, guided the spaceplane to a precision docking with the International Space Station early Wednesday after performing a flawless, "radar failed" rendezvous.


Credit: NASA TV
 
Approaching from directly in front of the space station, Discovery's payload bay docking mechanism engaged its counterpart on the front end of the forward Harmony module at 3:44 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft sailed 220 miles above the Caribbean at 5 miles per second.

"Houston and station, capture confirmed," pilot James Dutton radioed.

"Discovery, arriving," station flight engineer Soichi Noguchi called out, ringing the ship's bell in the Harmoney module.

It took about one orbit to complete leak checks ensuring a tight seal between the shuttle and the space station, which together mass 1,043,000 pounds.

Hatches were opened at 5:11 a.m. and the station's six-member crew - Noguchi, Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko, Timothy Creamer, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Soichi Noguchi - welcomed the shuttle's seven astronauts aboard.

Poindexter, Dutton, flight engineer Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and spacewalkers Richard Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson floated into the Harmony module to smiles, hugs and handshakes.

The combined 13-member shuttle-station crew is the first to boast four women and the first to include two Japanese astronauts.

The terminal phase of the rendezvous began at 1:06 a.m. with a rocket firing to close the final 9.2 miles between the shuttle and the station. Poindexter maneuvered Discovery to a point 600 feet directly below the lab complex and then performed a slow back-flip maneuver to expose the ship's heat shield to the station.

While the shuttle's Ku-band antenna/radar system was out of action because of an earlier malfunction, TV from the station provided a spectacular bird's eye view of the dramatic maneuver as Discovery passed high above southeast Asia.

Kotov and Creamer snapped 364 pictures using digital cameras equipped with 400-mm and 800-mm lenses to document the condition of the protective tiles on the shuttle's belly. The photos will be downlinked to Houston for a detailed analysis.

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After the rendezvous pitch maneuver was complete, Poindexter guided Discovery up to a point about 300 feet directly in front of the space station, with the shuttle's nose pointed toward deep space and its open payload bay facing pressurized mating adaptor No. 2 on the front end of Harmony. From there, he flew the shuttle to a problem-free, on-time docking.

"It was a great day in space," said Flight Director Richard Jones. "We got successfully docked to the International Space Station and we're off to the races with respect to the rest of the docked mission. ... The 'radar-failed' (rendezvous) procedures went very well, the crew flew the rendezvous profile flawlessly and (they) made it look easy."

As soon as hatches were opened between Discovery and the station, Wilson handed off a computer hard drive loaded with stored imagery collected during an extensive inspection of the shuttle's nose cap and wing leading edge panels that was carried out Tuesday.

Because of the Ku-band antenna problems, the data could not be downlinked in real time. But using the station's Ku-band communications system, engineers expect to get all the imagery down to the ground by noon.

"The data collection process with respect to getting all the imagery down has started," Jones said. "Once the hatches were opened, we gave the ISS crew the flight day two inspection data that we had collected and they were starting to downlink that as I was walking over."

Jones described Discovery's rendezvous pitch maneuver as "just a beautiful thing to see, it's almost poetry."

"It looks like the vehicle seems to be, in general, in great health," he said. "We'll obviously let the experts look at the detailed imagery and confirm that. But things seem to be going very well."

Overnight Wednesday, the astronauts plan to move a cargo module, loaded with more than 17,000 pounds of supplies and equipment, from Discovery's payload bay to the space station.The first of three spacewalks to replace an ammonia coolant tank on the station's solar power truss is planned for early Friday. Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: PREVIEW OF RENDEZVOUS AND DOCKING ACTIVITIES PLAY
VIDEO: OBJECT LOST FROM SHUTTLE TAIL DURING LAUNCH PLAY
VIDEO: TUESDAY AFTERNOON'S MANAGEMENT TEAM UPDATE PLAY
VIDEO: THE FULL STS-131 LAUNCH EXPERIENCE PLAY

VIDEO: FLIGHT DAY 2 HIGHLIGHTS MOVIE PLAY
VIDEO: TUESDAY MORNING'S MISSION STATUS BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW OF FLIGHT DAY 2 ACTIVITIES PLAY
VIDEO: NARRATED TOUR OF DISCOVERY'S PAYLOAD BAY PLAY
VIDEO: DESCRIPTION OF KU-BAND ANTENNA PROBLEM PLAY

VIDEO: FLIGHT DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS MOVIE PLAY
VIDEO: SHUTTLE DISCOVERY BLASTS OFF! PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: GO INSIDE MISSION CONTROL DURING LAUNCH PLAY
VIDEO: POST-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY

VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: VAB ROOF PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PRESS SITE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PATRICK AFB PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PAD PERIMETER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: BEACH TRACKER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PAD CAMERA 070 PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PAD CAMERA 071 PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PLAYALINDA BEACH PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: PAD FRONT CAMERA PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH REPLAY: KSC WEST TOWER PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS LEAVE CREW QUARTERS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW FINISHES GETTING SUITED UP PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: NARRATED REVIEW OF SHUTTLE'S PREPARATIONS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: NARRATED REVIEW OF PAYLOADS' PREPARATIONS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PREPARING AN EXTERNAL TANK FOR LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: TIME-LAPSE OF GANTRY ROLLING BACK FOR LAUNCH PLAY
VIDEO: LAUNCH PAD'S SERVICE TOWER RETRACTED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PAYLOAD BAY DOORS CLOSED FOR LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS INSPECT THE PAYLOAD BAY PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: STS-131 MISSION PREVIEW MOVIE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH COMMANDER POINDEXTER PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH PILOT JIM DUTTON PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH RICK MASTRACCHIOPLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH METCALF-LINDENBURGER PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE WILSON PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH NAOKO YAMAZAKI PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH CLAY ANDERSON PLAY

VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY
VIDEO: COUNTDOWN STATUS AND WEATHER OUTLOOK PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW OF DISCOVERY'S LAUNCH COUNTDOWN PLAY
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS ARRIVE FOR LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: FULL FLIGHT READINESS REVIEW NEWS BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: RECAP OF THE FLIGHT READINESS REVIEW PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: HELIUM VALVE NO CONSTRAINT TO LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MANAGERS ASSESS ISSUES BEFORE FLIGHT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: UPDATE ON PRE-LAUNCH PREPS AT PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: SPACEWALKING SUITS LOADED ABOARD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: INTERVIEW WITH STS-131 PAYLOAD MANAGER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: INTERVIEW WITH BOEING PAYLOAD MANAGER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PAYLOADS DELIVERED TO LAUNCH PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: TRANSPORT CANISTER ROTATED VERTICALLY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LEONARDO PLACED INTO THE TRANSPORTER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: STATION'S NEW AMMONIA COOLANT TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LEONARDO HATCH CLOSED FOR FLIGHT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FILLING UP ONE OF THE SUPPLY RACKS PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: CAN THE SHUTTLE PROGRAM AVOID LOOMING RETIREMENT? PLAY
VIDEO: WHAT ABOUT ADDING ONE MORE SHUTTLE MISSION? PLAY
VIDEO: FULL BRIEFING BY SHUTTLE AND STATION OFFICIALS PLAY
VIDEO: THE STS-131 MISSION OVERVIEW PRESENTATIONS PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW BRIEFING ON MISSION'S SPACEWALKS PLAY
VIDEO: THE ASTRONAUTS' PRE-FLIGHT NEWS BRIEFING PLAY

VIDEO: SHUTTLE EVACUATION PRACTICE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW MODULE HATCH IS CLOSED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS BOARD DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW BRIEFED ON EMERGENCY PROCEDURES PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: TEST-DRIVING AN EMERGENCY ARMORED TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: NIGHTTIME APPROACHES IN TRAINING AIRCRAFT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS CHAT WITH REPORTERS AT PAD 39A PLAY
VIDEO: CREW ARRIVES FOR PRACTICE COUNTDOWN PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: GANTRY PLACED AROUND DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: DISCOVERY REACHES PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: OVERNIGHT ROLLOUT BEGINS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SHUTTLE HOISTED FOR ATTACHMENT TO TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CRANE ROTATES THE ORBITER VERTICALLY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: DISCOVERY MOVES TO ASSEMBLY BUILDING PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS VISIT THEIR SPACECRAFT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW GOES INSIDE LEONARDO MODULE PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: EXTERNAL TANK ATTACHED TO BOOSTERS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FUEL TANK LIFTED INTO CHECKOUT CELL PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: EXTERNAL TANK ARRIVES AT SPACEPORT PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: DISCOVERY'S NOSE POD ATTACHED PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: INSTALLING DISCOVERY'S MAIN ENGINES PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: KSC'S SHUTTLE MAIN ENGINE SHOP PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: GASEOUS NITROGEN TANK REMOVED PLAY | HI-DEF
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