Jonathan's Space Report No. 567 2006 Jul 6

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Sunday, July 9, 2006

Shuttle and Station

Space Shuttle Discovery took off from Launch Complex 39B at 1837:55 UTC on Jul 4, on mission STS-121. The OMS-2 burn at 1915 UTC put Discovery in a 155 x 253 km x 51.6 deg orbit, while ET-119 fell back to Earth in its 56 x 230 km x 51.6 deg trans-atmospheric orbit and reentered over the Pacific at about 1950 UTC. Discovery completed its rendezvous with the International Space Station on Jul 6 and docked with the PMA-2 adapter on the Destiny module at 1452 UTC.

Following the loss of Columbia on mission STS-107 in Jan 2003, the Shuttle's External Tank was redesigned to reduce the amount of thermal protection foam that falls off during ascent, and methods were developed to fix any damage to the Orbiter's thermal protection system due to foam hits. The loss of OV-102 Columbia was due to damage to the RCC leading edge panels of its left wing caused by foam from External Tank ET-93. Orbiter OV-103 Discovery then flew on mission STS-114 in July 2005, but to general consternation it turned out that its tank, ET-121, lost larger pieces of foam than expected. The Shuttle stood down again and the future of the program is riding on the new mission, STS-121. Early look data seems good: no significant foam loss in the lower atmosphere part of the flight.

Orbiter OV-103 Discovery is using tank ET-119 and solid motors RSRM-93. In the payload bay, the cargo is:

 Location       Cargo                            Mass
 Bay 1-2        Orbiter Docking System           1800 kg?
 Bay 4S?        APC with SPDU?                     20 kg?
 Bay 5-6        Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC)   1500 kg?
                Keel Yoke Device (KYD)
                TUS/RA, EATCS-PM, FGB
 Bay 7S?        ROEU?                              20 kg?
 Bay 7-12       Leonardo (MPLM-1)                9500 kg
 Bay 13         LMC, DTO 848                      954 kg
 Sill           OBSS 202                          450 kg?
 Sill           RMS 303                           390 kg
 Total cargo:                                   14594 kg?

Note: NASA uses a different definition of "cargo".

Note: OBSS serial number from Bill Harwood's page,

Note: There are probably a couple of APC sidewall carriers with SPDU power distribution units and suchlike, but they don't appear on recent cargo diagrams I've seen.

The LMC (Lightweight MPESS Carrier) carries the DTO 848 thermal protection system repair kit demo; the ICC carries the TUS (Trailing Umbilical System) for the ISS Mobile Transporter repair, as well as the EATCS-PM pump module for the ISS truss, and a fixed grapple bar. The Multipurpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, carries the MELFI freezer rack, the Express Transportation Rack with the EMCS (European Modular Cultivation System) and the OGS oxygen generation system rack, as well as 3 RSR (Resupply Stowage Rack) and 5 RSP (Resupply Stowage Platform). The ROEU (Remotely Operated Electrical Umbilical) on the payload bay sidewall provides power to the MPLM. The MEPSI picosatellite deployer originally meant to fly on STS-121 appears to have been reassigned to another launch.

STS-121 will dock with the Station at PMA-2. Crew of Discovery are Steven Lindsey (CDR), Mark E. Kelly (Pilot), Michael Fossum (MS1), Lisa Nowak (MS2), Stephanie Wilson (MS3) and Piers Sellers (MS4), all from NASA. ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter (MS5) is flying as part of the Expedition 13 crew and is expected to remain aboard the Station with Vinogradov and Williams.


NASA has announced that the Crew Launch Vehicle, being developed on the basis of the Shuttle SRB to launch the next NASA human-carrying spaceship, will be called the Ares I. The planned heavy-lift followon will be called the Ares V.


A Boeing Delta 4 was launched from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg AFB in California on Jun 28 carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. The launch was codenamed NROL-22 and the satellite received the designation USA 184, held over from last year.

The intended orbit is an elliptical 12-hour orbit with an inclination of 63 degrees; NRO data relay and signals intelligence satellites have used this orbit in the past. I suspect this payload is likely to be one of the signals intelligence series that began with the JUMPSEAT satellites in 1971. Aviation Week, on the other hand, thinks that it's a Satellite Data System data relay satellite. At the moment, I don't think there's compelling evidence either way.

NROL-22 probably also carries NASA's TWINS-A science payload which carries neutral atom imagers to map the Earth's magnetosphere. It may also have an additional USAF SBIRS-HEO test payload. SBIRS-HEO is the highly elliptical orbit component of the new Space-Based Infrared missile early warning satellite system that will replace the old DSP satellites. The HEO-1 payload was delivered to the USAF in 2004 which is consistent with a launch on this mission, originally scheduled to go up in early 2005.


The Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) was reactivated on Jun 30 after being out of action since Jun 19. Failure of ACS would have been a blow to the telescope, whose main spectrograph has also failed. A Shuttle servicing mission to HST hangs in the balance with the forthcoming test flight of Discovery on mission STS-121.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Jun 15 0800   Resurs-DK No. 1   Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Imaging     21A
Jun 17 2244   KazSat            Proton-K/DM3    Baykonur LC200/39 Comms      22A
Jun 18 0750   Galaxy 16         Zenit-3SL       Odyssey, POR     Comms       23A
Jun 21 2215   USA 187 )         Delta 7925      Canaveral SLC17A Tech        24A
              USA 188 )                                          Tech        24B
              USA 189 )                                          Tech        24B
Jun 24 1508   Progress M-57     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       25A
Jun 25 0400   Kosmos-2421       Tsiklon-2       Baykonur LC90?   Sigint      26A
Jun 28 0333   USA 184 (NROL-22) Delta 4M+(4,2)  Vandenberg SLC-6 Sigint?     27A
Jul  4 1838   Discovery (STS-121) Shuttle       Kennedy LC39B    Spaceship   28A
              Leonardo (MPLM-1)                                  Module      28

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