Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Discovery will perform "late" inspection before leaving space station

NASA is beginning to re-plan the latter half of Discovery's mission so its crew can perform a "late" inspection of orbiter heat shields before departing the International Space Station.

The inspection would normally be done after undocking, essentially repeating the inspection done Tuesday before Discovery reached the station.

But because of a failed high-speed data antenna, the shuttle crew likely won't be able to downlink video from the inspection after undocking.

Instead, the shuttle crew will remain at the station and use its computers to downlink the data, just as it has with the first inspection.

It was not immediately clear if the change might impact the length of Discovery's planned 13-day mission.

"We're currently just in the process of kicking off the real meat of re-planning the back half of the mission," said station flight director Ed Van Cise. "But as far as these first few days go, it's going to be all just as we planned it prior to launch."

This would be the second time a late inspection occurs during a shuttle's docked mission. The first was during Endeavour's STS-123 mission in March 2008.

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