Saturday, February 26, 2011

Discovery on final approach to station

Discovery successfully completed a rocket firing at 11:33 a.m. EST to set up its final approach for a 2:16 p.m. docking with the International Space Station.

While flying over the Pacific Ocean, Discovery's crew fired the orbiter's left, rear rocket pod, part of the Orbital Maneuvering System, for 11 seconds, adjusting their speed by 8.4 feet per second.

"Good burn, Discovery," mission controllers radioed.

At the time of the burn, Discovery was visible through space station cameras as a bright white dot about nine miles away.

Within about 90 minutes, Discovery will have closed within 1,000 feet and begin a nose-over-tail backflip beneath the outpost.

Officially called the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, or RPM, the move exposes the orbiter's underside so station residents can take pictures that will help managers assess the health of the thermal protection system.

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