STS-120 Day 3 – crucial Rendevous Pitch Maneuver (RPM) to be done before docking with ISS

STS-120 Discovery will rendevouz with the ISS today, Day 3 in the mission. Before linking up with the ISS Commander Pam Melroy (right) will perform a rendevouz pitch maneuver (RPM) allowing Discovery to come about 600 feet below the station.

The RPM is a 90-minute 360 degree back-flip that will expose Discovery’s belly to the camera imaging on the ISS. 400-mm an 800-mm lenses will be used. NASA has successfully completed about 20 previous RPM operations.

Around 300 digital pictures can be taken during this time. This will allow astronauts Anderson and Malenchenko to take detailed photographs of the underside of Discovery’s heat shield as it approaches the station. Pictures will be taken of the upper surfaces of the shuttle as well as Discovery’s underside, the nose landing gear door seals, the main landing gear door seals and the elevon cove.

Astronaut Zamka says, “We do that as part of the heat shield inspection procedures that are in place now,” Zamka said in a NASA interview. “About 600 feet below the space station on the R-bar, (the imaginary line) between the space station and the surface of the Earth, Pam Melroy will initiate a three-quarter-of-a-degree per second flip. It’s nose going over the tail. And as she’s going over, we expose the underside of the shuttle, all the heat shield tiles to the space station. Onboard the space station we have crew members (who will be) systematically taking pictures of the tiles on the space shuttle.”

Engineers from NASA will then examine the images to verify that Discovery’s heat shields are not damaged. The Expedition 16 Crew will be responsible for the photography. After performing this pitch maneuver, Discovery will dock with the ISS.

Image credit: NASA

NASA states that the inspection will be done by “using the shuttle’s robotic arm and Orbiter Boom Sensor System to check for any ascent‐imposed damage to the orbiter.”

On Day 13, the STS-120 Discovery crew also will conduct a detailed inspection of Discovery’s heat shield for any indications of micrometeoroid debris impacts. Mission Specialist Paolo Nespoli will test shuttle heat shield repair techniques.

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~ by tellinghistory on October 25, 2007.

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