Friday, September 24, 2010

Discovery cargo module ready for flight

Hatches on the cargo module that is Discovery's primary payload for its last scheduled flight were sealed today at Kennedy Space Center.

The next time they are opened should be on the International Space Station after Discovery's targeted Nov. 1 launch and a docking two days later.

The Italian-built module, nicknamed "Leonardo" and sometimes referred to as a "moving van," has flown to and from the station seven times.

But it is now set to become a permanent fixture on the outpost, providing storage space and a walk-in closet.

The module will haul up tons of spare parts and supplies, and a passenger. Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot torso developed by NASA and General Motors, is packed inside a box.

Along with a rack holding a spare external radiator for the station, the module is expected to be delivered to launch pad 39A on Oct. 7. Check out a NASA fact sheet on the STS-133 mission here.

The mission's commander and pilot, Steve Lindsey and Eric Boe, were in town Thursday to practice landings in a Shuttle Training Aircraft.

On Saturday, four days after Discovery rolled out to the pad, KSC teams plan to open the pad's rotating tower, weather permitting, to reveal the shuttle to potentially thousands of guests. It's the space center's annual Family Day for employees.

It will be the last chance for nearly 900 United Space Alliance workers to see the vehicle up close before their jobs come to an end next Friday. The cuts are part of the shuttle program's wind down with two or three more flights remaining.

IMAGE: Inside the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center today, workers inspected the Permanent Multipurpose Module after its hatch was closed in preparation for space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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