Thursday, March 03, 2011

Shuttle Hauls Station Into Higher Orbit

Shuttle Discovery boosted the International Space Station into a slightly higher orbit today as crews inside the joined craft hauled supplies and equipment between the ships.

Some of Discovery's 38 small vernier thrusters fired for 26 minutes earlier today, raising the station into an orbit with a high point of 224 statute miles and a low point of 214 miles. The station had been in a 223-by-213-mile orbit.

The re-boost positioned the station for the planned mid-March return to Earth of outpost commander Scott Kelly and two Russian flight engineers: Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka.

Discovery mission specialists Michael Barratt and Niccle Stott, meanwhile, are heading up the effort to transfer thousands of pounds of supplies and equipment from the shuttle to the station. Surplus gear, scientific samples and trash also are being packed aboard Discovery for the trip home.

In a message beamed up from Mission Control earlier today, Barratt and Stott were congratulated for hitting "the home stretch" of transfer operations. They already were 75 percent done with the job at the start of the day.

Discovery and its crew are scheduled to depart the station Sunday and make the shuttle's 39th and final landing at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday.

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