This week at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) was all about training and preparing for the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery. NASA’s media and public relations arm is trying new things in an effort to allow the world to participate, as much as possible, in the final days of the shuttle era. So as the astronauts went through their Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test – some members of the media – went with them!
STS-133 Crew Completes TCDT Training
The crew of SS-133, who will ride the space shuttle Discovery to orbit on her final mission, trained at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in what is known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). This training is a dry run of launch day activities, emergency procedures and other activities that will prepare the crew and the flight crew for launch.
The crew also practiced how to operate the emergency equipment, the M113 armored personnel carrier and how to evacuate the launch pad in the event of a fire. TCDT lasts for almost a week and is one of the final milestones before launch. The commander and pilot also practice landing the shuttle using the shuttle training aircraft (STA).
The crew of STS-133 consists of Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists, Alvin Drew, Tim Kopra, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. There mission will deliver the modified Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (which contains the first humanoid robot to fly in space – Robonaut-2) the ExPRESS Logistics Module-4 and much-needed spare parts for the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA Opens STA’s Doors to Media during TCDT
As the end of the shuttle program draws near, NASA is well aware of the historical nature of the nature of each milestone that takes place. As such, they are opening these events as much as practical to workers, their families and the media. Such was the case when the Commander and Pilot of STS-133 took to the skies on the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA). For the first time in the shuttle program’s history, certain members of the media were invited to ride along as the duo trained for Discovery’s final flight.
Practicing landings in the Grumman Gulfstream II is not an easy on the untrained as it may at first seem. The aircraft duplicates the shuttle’s approach profile – but to do so, the astronauts take it in for landings that are seven times steeper than what one experiences on commercial aircraft. Training on the STA is vitally important as the aircraft provides the crew with real-world training with a piece of equipment that the shuttle does not have – active engines. If the commander and pilot make a mistake on the STA they can practice until they get it right. When it comes time to land the shuttle they will get only one opportunity to get it right.
Todd Halvorson with Florida Today, Marcia Dunn with the Associated Press; John Zarella with CNN and Peter King of CBS Radio all traveled along with the training astronauts on what, by all accounts, was a very successful first effort to allow the media to look behind the curtain of some of what NASA’s does to prepare crews for flight. These members of the media in turn will share their perceptions with the audience and in the end the public will gain a greater understanding of what it takes to launch men and women into space.
This Week in Cape Canaveral History
October 16, 1975: NASA launched the first operational Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-A/SMS-C) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aboard a Delta rocket. GOES-A was the first in a series of geosynchronous weather satellites.
October 11-24, 2000: NASA launched space shuttle Discovery (STS-92) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Discovery docked with the International Space Station. The crew installed a base structure for the U.S. solar array (the “Z-1 Truss”) and an orbiter docking station for the U.S. segment of the space station (the “Pressurized Mating Adapter 3”). They also completed four space walks.