NASA sets launch date for space shuttle Discovery mission
The astronauts will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the International Space Station.
February 21, 2011
Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to begin an 11-day mission to the International Space Station with a launch at 4:50 p.m. EST Thursday, February 24, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-133 mission is Discovery's final scheduled flight.
Space shuttle Discovery NASA/Tony Gray
Discovery's launch date was announced Friday at the conclusion of a flight readiness review at Kennedy. During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle and station's equipment, support systems, and personnel are ready.
The six astronauts for the mission will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the station. The PMM was converted from the multipurpose logistics module Leonardo and will provide additional storage for the station crew. Experiments in such fields as fluid physics, materials science, biology, and biotechnology may be conducted inside the module.
The PMM also carries Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space, which will become a permanent resident of the station. In addition, the flight will deliver critical spare parts and the Express Logistics Carrier 4, an external platform that holds large equipment.
STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey and his crew arrived at Kennedy on Sunday, February 20, for final launch preparations. Joining Lindsey are Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt, and Nicole Stott. Bowen and Drew will conduct two spacewalks to install new components and perform maintenance.
Discovery's launch will occur 6 hours after the planned docking of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 "Johannes Kepler" to the space station.
STS-133 is the first mission planned for 2011. It is Discovery's 39th flight and 35th shuttle mission to the station. There are two other flights planned before the shuttle retires this year.