Innocent Bystander

A little tech, a little current affairs, and my view on whatever has my attention at the moment...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Return to Flight

Well, unless you live under a rock with no connections to the outside world (in which case it would be really creepy if you came here for your information...) then you already know that the launch of the STS-114, Shuttle Discovery went well and after 2 and a half long years, NASA is back in the business of putting humans into low earth orbit. STS-114 is NASA speak for Space Transportation System mission number 114. NASA's technical name for the shuttle fleet is the Space Transportation System.

The launch went very well by most accounts, except for it appears two incidents. First, there apears to have been some debris that fell away as the solid rocket boosters seperated. NASA beleives that there may have been some damage, but probably nothing significant. The other incident is that apparently during launch there was a birdstrike suffered on the nose cone of the external fuel tank.

I always get amazed by the pictures from the launch. The fact that there are cameras so sensitive in place around the launch site that you can see the shuttle when it's over 200 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center and 60 miles up seems unbelieveable, but they've been doing this for many years now.

In case you didn't get to see the launch, we were treated to a completely new view of this launch. Out of concern for debris falling from the external fuel tank like what was the cause of the Columbia crash NASA has installed a camera on the fuel tank that looks down and back towards the wings and rear of the shuttle.

The camera gives NASA engineers the ability to monitor this area and watch to see if anything falls off the tanks and strikes the shuttle or if anything should fall off the shuttle. However, since the images were also relayed by NASA to the gathered press pool, we got to seem them as well. As far as I know, this is the first time we've ever been able to see live images from the launch vehicle. For the first time we were able to see from the launch vehicle, the solid rocket boosters seperate and fall away, previously we could only view this through super zoom cameras that were 40 miles away. We also got to see for the first time, the external fuel tank seperate from the shuttle, previously this was something that we just couldn't see at all because it occured at such a high altitude.

Discovery is on a 12 day mission, while in orbit the crew will inspect the shuttle to ensure that it's undamaged from the launch, test some repair procedures and deliver gyro and other supplies to the International Space Station...


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