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Airborne's Annual April 1st Episode

Fri, Oct 22, 2004

A Big Step For NASA

Integrated Simulation Milestone In Return To Flight

Training for the Space Shuttle's return to flight entered a new phase this month as the astronauts and Mission Control began full-scale rehearsals that will continue until days before launch.

A web of computer and voice communication connections brings together dozens of flight controllers, the astronauts who will fly the Shuttle, support engineers and training instructors to simulate key portions of the next mission. The training is complex, with planners inserting multiple problems during each practice session and gauging the performance of the team as it addresses them.

This first eight-hour "flight-specific integrated simulation" focuses on the Space Shuttle Discovery's rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. The simulation includes practicing a new flip, a rendezvous pitch maneuver, that the Space Shuttle performs as it approaches to allow Station crew members to photograph the Shuttle's heat shielding tiles to check their condition.

"This is where we stop just brainstorming and thinking about how we're going to go fly this flight in space," said Lead Flight Director Paul Hill. "This will look and feel to us just like a real flight -- even to the astronauts. Once the clock starts ticking in the simulation, we get the same adrenalin when something bad starts to happen, we get the same rush when we solve a problem that keeps the crew out of danger, as we would during the real thing," he added.

As these dress rehearsals continue, the team will practice every aspect of the flight. Some aspects, such as launch and landing, will be rehearsed many times.

The crew of the return to flight mission will participate from the fixed-base Shuttle simulator. The STS-114 crew includes Commander Eileen Collins (above), Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialists Charlie Carmarda, Wendy Lawrence, Steve Robinson, Soichi Noguchi and Andy Thomas. A stand-in Station crew will participate from the nearby Space Station simulator.

"This integrated simulation is a huge milestone for the crew," Collins said. "The crew is ready to go, the flight control team is ready to go, and we're especially looking forward to the rendezvous pitch maneuver -- something that's never been done before," she added.

Flight controllers supporting both the Space Shuttle and Space Station will work in the Mission Control Center. Hill will lead the Shuttle contingent, while Flight Director Brian Lunney will lead the Station team.

FMI: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

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