Monday, February 28, 2011

Discovery's Last RPM

Discovery in holding pattern at ISS. Open cargo bay displays the Permanent Multipurpose Module and the Express Logistics Carrier 4.

Space Shuttle Discovery arrived at the ISS around mid-day Saturday. Before docking, all shuttle flight snow perform the RPM, or Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver. This nice piece of flying involves flipping the shuttle end-over-end so the cameras on the ISS can get great shots of the reentry tiles on the shuttle bottom. These shots will later be analyzed by NASA engineers to determine if the shuttle is safe for its later de-orbit burn and landing. After the RPM, the pilot swoops the shuttle upward in a 90 degree arc to position the open bay towards the ISS docking port. Finally, ever so slowly the shuttle is moved into docking with the ISS.

View of ISS through shuttle docking port. The crosshairs point to exactly where Discovery will be docking. The shuttle is below the ISS, but not in position for docking yet.

In position for the RPM. Note the interesting shadow of the ISS on the shuttle nose.

Here she goes...

Shuttle at 90 degrees up, pointing directly at the ISS cameras.

Starting to flip onto it's back.

Passing 180 degrees and still flipping. Shuttle main engines in view.

About 280 degrees and continuing.

Alllllllmost there...

RPM complete, 90 degree swoop into docking position complete, and edging closer to the ISS (in upper corner).

On Final Approach to the docking port. part of station blocks the view of the shuttle, but you can see Discovery's nose underneath the module right of center.

Graphic in Mission COntrol. Shuttle approaching the ISS.

Closing on the docking port.

Capture. Docking complete.

Discovery docked, view blocked by Japanese module. In this view you have a real snapshot of international cooperation. Modules from Japan, Russia, USA, ESA, and CanadArm.

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