Some interesting things took place at Cape Canaveral this week, lighting up the region in a number of ways. NASA held a payload event showcasing several of the flight hardware elements that will be aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-133 mission. Included in that event was a demonstration of the humanoid robotic assistant Robonaut 2 that will be aboard Discovery. Over at Cape Canaveral, the Air Force launched the first in a series of next-generation military communications satellites.
NASA Hosts STS-133 Payload Media Event
NASA's Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) played host to members of the media on Aug. 14, as the space agency showed off the payload that shuttle Discovery will carry to orbit on Nov. 1. The event covered most of STS-133's payload elements. The star attraction of this event, however, was the human-like Robonaut 2 (R2), a dexterous handyman that is designed to assist astronauts on long-duration space voyages.
Those present were also provided with a tour of the Permanent Multi-Purpose Module (PMM). In actuality the PMM is the refurbished Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) that has traveled to and from space in the shuttle several times. Leonardo has been modified and hardened with micrometeoroid and debris shielding so as to be better suited to being permanently mounted to the International Space Station (ISS) upon the completion of STS-133.
Located further down in the SSPF was the final payload component on display - the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier - 4 (ELC-4). This unpressurized pallet will carry a Heat Rejection System Radiator (HRSR), Flight Support Equipment as well as several Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs) to the orbiting laboratory. Although stocked full of important components, this poriton of the Shuttle's payload was overshadowed by Robonaut-2.
Also scheduled to fly to the space station on Discovery is Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) DragonEye (DE) relative navigation sensor. This element of STS-133's payload was not part of this media event.
Although a final determination has yet to be made, this mission could be Discovery's last. If so, the orbiter will eventually make her way to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Robonaut-2 flexes his muscles during a media event held at kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility. Photo Credit: awaltersphoto.com
First AEHF Satellite Thunders to Orbit
The United States military has been working to upgrade existing communications satellites with newer, safer and faster models. The first of these next-gen satellites, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency -1 (AEHF-1), rode a fiery trail to orbit atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket Aug. 14. The rocket roared off of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41).
This launch has been delayed several times due to a variety of technical issues. Concerns over the mechanism that controls the payload's protective cover, a balky crane, and other problems all conspired to push the launch back until Saturday. None of these problems were evident when it came to launch however. The satellite's Atlas V launch vehicle rumbled its way into orbit on the first launch attempt.
The AEHF series of satellites is designed to replace the Milstar constellation. These newer satellites are designed to be jamming-proof and to be far more capable than their predecessors. In the event of a nuclear war, they will provide real-time communications between military commanders on the ground and the president.
The Atlas V rocket that hoisted the AEHF-1 to orbit was first used in 2002 to launch the Hot Bird 6 satellite. The Atlas V is built by ULA, a joint operation between aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V carries the AEHF-1 satellite to orbit. Photo Credit: awaltersphoto.com
This Week in Cape History
August 12, 2005: NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. aboard the first United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket used for an interplanetary mission. MRO's ongoing mission was to map the physical features of Mars, including its atmosphere and its subterranean layering.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scans the Martian surface in this NASA illustration. Image Credit: JPL/NASA
The Cape Week in Review is compiled by Jason Rhian, the Cape Insider, and is a weekly
round-up of what's happening at Cape Canaveral. If you have information or suggestions for the Cape Week in Review please email us at email@example.com.