Sun, Jul 16, 2006
Engineers Still Eyeing APU Problems
Space Shuttle Discovery ended STS-121’s stay at the
International Space Station when it undocked Saturday morning at
6:08 a.m. EDT. Undocking occurred as the two spacecraft flew above
the Pacific Ocean north of New Zealand.
STS-121 delivered a new Expedition 13 crew member and much
needed supplies and equipment to the international outpost. The
shuttle crew also conducted three spacewalks to perform maintenance
on the station and to test on-orbit heat shield repair
Pilot Mark Kelly flew Discovery to a point above the station
before performing the final separation burn at 6:57 a.m.
STS-121 crew members are using the robotic arm and the orbital
boom sensor system to perform final inspections of the starboard
wing and the shuttle nose cap. Discovery will remain about 45 miles
behind the station until the mission management team reviews survey
results and clears it for landing... which Kelly says he fully
expects to occur.
"Based on what we've seen over the last ten days, the
inspections we've done, we've got a great ship," said Kelly. "It's
ready to come home."
NASA is still keeping its eyes on a potential problem -- not
with the heat shield, but with two of the three auxiliary power
units. As Aero-News reported Friday,
one has seen a near-total loss of pressure, while the other's
backup generator has failed.
Fortunately, that's why the shuttle has those much-vaunted
"triple-redundant" systems -- as NASA says one fully functional APU
is all that's needed for the orbiter to return to Earth safely.
As it stands, Discovery is scheduled to touch down at Florida's
Kennedy Space Center at 9:14 am EDT Monday.
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