Feeds

Discovery poised for final mission

Everything 'going beautifully' for launch tonight

Seven Steps to Software Security

Space shuttle Discovery is poised to launch tonight on its 39th and final mission – a last trip to the International Space Station which will end a career stretching over 26 years.

The rotating service structure moves away from space shuttle Discovery. Photo: NASANASA last night retracted the rotating service structure which protects the venerable vehicle on Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A – ahead of pumping "more than 535,000 gallons of super cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen" into its external fuel tank this morning.

Mission management team head Mike Moses said yesterday: "Everything is on track and going beautifully with the countdown. We're really looking forward to a very action-packed, successful mission and everything is on track."

Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach added: "We're not tracking any issues and it looks like Discovery will fly this time."

Weather officer Kathy Winters described conditions at Kennedy as "exceptional", with "only a 20 percent chance that weather will be prohibitive at launch time".

Discovery will bow out by delivering vital spares and the converted multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo to the orbiting outpost. Leonardo – now dubbed the Permanent Multipurpose Module – is set for attachment to the Earth-facing side of the orbiting outpost's Unity node.

The STS-133 mission crew comprises commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen, Alvin Drew, and Nicole Stott. Bowen and Drew are scheduled to carry out two maintenance spacewalks.

Also on board for Discovery's swansong is Robonaut 2, aka R2, which will become "the first human-like robot in space" designed "to demonstrate how dexterous robots behave in space".

Robonaut shakes hands with with his human counterpart. Pic: NASA

R2 will travel inside the Leonardo module for later unpacking and testing. The immediate ambitions for the robonaut are modest, but NASA hopes that "through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work".

Discovery is due to blast off at 21:50 GMT. NASA's STS-133 mission section is right here. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.