STS -116 (English Space Transportation System) is the designation for a flight mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery ( OV- 103), NASA. It was the 117th Space Shuttle mission and the 33rd flight of the space shuttle Discovery. This 20th flight of a U.S. space shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS) was dedicated to the future ISS Construction and delivered the P5- lattice structure.

The launch took place on 10 December 2006 and was the first night launch since November 2002 ( STS -113 ). It was the last scheduled shuttle launch from Pad 39B before the start ramp has been disabled and has since been converted for flight tests of the new Ares I rocket.

  • 4.1 First start attempt
  • 4.2 Start
  • 4.3 Inspection and coupling
  • 4.4 Working on the ISS
  • 4.5 return


Shuttle crew

  • Mark Polansky ( second space flight), Commander
  • William Oefelein ( first space flight), Pilot
  • Robert Curbeam ( third space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Nicholas Patrick ( first space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Joan Higginbotham ( first space flight ), Mission Specialist
  • Christer Fuglesang ( first space flight), Mission Specialist (ESA / Sweden)

ISS crew Departure

ISS Expedition 15 14/ISS-Expedition

  • Sunita Williams ( first space flight ), aircraft engineer

ISS Crew Return

ISS Expedition 14 13/ISS-Expedition

  • Thomas Reiter ( second space flight), flight engineer (ESA / Germany )

Mission overview

Main payload of the mission was the lattice structure of P5 with a mass of 1.9 tons, which was installed during the first space to exit the International Space Station. Addition of two more spacewalks the energy systems of the station were reconfigured to enable the temporary wiring in the planned by the engineers final state. This allowed the assembled in September 2006, the solar cells are connected to the station P3/P4-Moduls own energy supply. During a fourth exit, which was arranged in addition, two astronauts repaired a jammed solar panel, which could not retract automatically.

The space shuttle brought 2.4 tons of equipment ( of which 1.9 tonnes in Spacehab ) to the station and took 1.7 tonnes no longer required parts ( completed experiments, equipment, waste) back to Earth. Furthermore, there was a changing of the guard: the German astronaut Thomas Reiter was replaced by the American Sunita Williams and returned to his six-month stay on the ISS back from orbit. With the five space flight newcomers of STS- 116, the number of people who have flown into space rose to 454


Soon after the last discovery mission STS- 121, the orbiter was examined for damage. This 93 damage in the heat shield were identified, of which eleven were larger than 2.5 centimeters. After the cargo bay doors open and the logistics module Leonardo was removed, one carried out additional inspections on the space shuttle, which ranged from the lead up to the main engines. These were removed for better examination. In addition, in August 2006, a fuel cell, a heating element and the auxiliary power unit No. 3 were replaced.

In addition, we introduced some payload loading tests with the Spacehab cargo module that was loaded on 3 November 2006 in the payload container and transported to the launch pad four days later. In the assembly hall ( VAB) was after some tests on October 13, the outer tank, who arrived earlier on September 21 with a ship at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC ), mounted between the two solid rocket boosters.

On November 1, the orbiter was transferred to the VAB, where he was connected to the external tank, and the two boosters. The Discovery was finally rolled on 9 November to the launch pad 39B. The 6.8 km long route was completed in eight and a half hours.

Under the eyes of thousands of onlookers a shuttle solid rocket of the current configuration in a test bench manufacturer in Utah was tested on November 17, 2006. The booster was ignited at 01:00 UTC ( 18:00 local time clock on 16 November ). NASA considered this two-minute test run to be necessary because the orbiter should first take a night launch since the crash of the Columbia. Cameras 31 and 658 channels of data of the burn-off has been documented to obtain comparative values ​​, which could be compared with the images and measurements of STS- 116.

The end of November was held at KSC the traditional two-day flight readiness loss. Following this so-called Flight Readiness Review, to which participated for the flight controller, all systems of the Space Shuttle were declared ready for launch on November 29. At the same time, the provisional start date, December 8, was confirmed.

Mission History

First start attempt

31 hours after the seven -member crew arrived in Florida, began on 5 December 2006, the countdown for this mission. First of NASA meteorologists went with a 70 percent probability of the fact that the weather conditions for a launch on the morning of December 8 are acceptable. Then moved to a cold front and the weather worsened.

On December 6, two had technical problems in the meantime, NASA employs managers: A test yielded unusual results and raised the question whether the right segment connecting adhesives were used in the two solid rocket boosters. In addition, a brief voltage spike had occurred in the Space Shuttle on the launch pad with energy supplying power lines. Both incidents were examined and classified as safe.

Although for 8 December, NASA stated only a 40 percent chance that the launch would not be compromised by low clouds and rain showers in the starting area, put one continues the countdown. The cloud cover was closed, however, why the attempt to start at the last minute had to be stopped, because of an emergency during the ascent, the poor visibility would have prevented a return of the space shuttle to the launch site. In scheduled countdown Hold is used for a final check of the start criteria at T -9 minutes, it was decided to insert a new stop at T-5 minutes at persistently worse situation clouds. Within these additional maintenance phase, there was no improvement in the weather and the end of the startup window has been reached. The launch was canceled at 2:36 UTC.

Because the meteorologists at the space agency predicted a 90 percent chance for a new start demolition for the next day, put NASA on a shift of 48 hours. For the 10th December, the weather, however, was only slightly better.


With two days late discovery broke the second launch attempt, on 10 December 2006 in International Space Station on. Although the weather forecast first went out only to 30 percent of favorable conditions and the chance of rain was 20 percent, the countdown was taken the day before at 8:52 UTC in the T-11 hour mark again.

Due to unspecified problems with the RSS access scaffold this so-called Rotating Service Structure was able to be pivoted away from the orbiter only ten hours late. This confused the schedule and led to the refueling of the rust-colored external tank could also be initiated only after a two-hour delay. The built -up times, called Holds, flexible enough in the countdown was present to be able to stop all work until the scheduled start time.

In addition to the weather at the launch site in Florida the meteorological factors had to be considered on the Notlandeplätzen in Spain and France. When you first start attempt prevailed at the three alternative locations like bad weather conditions such as the Kennedy Space Center. This time saw the situation in Europe better. But NASA took strong crosswinds at the Shuttle Landing Facility worry that lay close to the allowable limit. As the weather improved in the last hours before the start and NASA meteorologists finally predicted as much as 70 percent for good weather, the Discovery was time to take off 01:47:35 UTC. It was the first night launch in four years.

Inspection and coupling

The first full working day in space for the crew began 14 hours after the start. Was on the program since the STS -114 mandatory review of the sensitive heat shield. With the help of the OBSS - Inspektionsarms, which is connected to the robotic arm of the shuttle and has precision cameras, the sensitive areas of the orbiter were investigated. One after another the right wing, the nose and the left wing were investigated. First evaluations of the NASA engineers in Houston showed no evidence of damage to the Hitzschutzkacheln.

On December 11, at 22:12 UTC then was to dock with the International Space Station (ISS ). He was previously commander Mark Polansky shuttle the " Flip-Flop reverse maneuver" by to be photographed from the ISS crew the entire underside of the orbiter to detect also possible minor damage on the heat shield.

Shortly after greeting the two crews ordered the ground control to a change in the flight plan. An accelerometer in the starboard wing had displayed around 10:30 UTC twelve hours before the coupling, while the shuttle crew slept a possible strike. With the robotic arm of the ISS astronauts took therefore propose an additional visual inspection of the left wing leading edge. The suspicion of damage but was not confirmed. Only then is the main payload of the Discovery was lifted by shuttle gripper arm from the cargo hatch and the P5 connector are passed to the ISS arm.

Work on the ISS

The 12 December (fourth flight day ) was dominated by the first space exit (EVA ) of the mission. U.S. astronaut Bob Curbeam and his Swedish colleague Christer Fuglesang left the space station at 20:31 UTC on American ISS Quest airlock. In preparation for this EVA belonged during the last shuttle flight practiced " camping ", the two astronauts the night in the airlock spent (for more details in the STS -115 article).

After the protective covering was removed from the P5 structure of the ISS gripper arm maneuvered the new device to its intended position, past the existing structure of the space station, which left little room for maneuver. This could Suni Williams and Joanie Higginbotham, the " operator " of the robot arm, act only on call, because they had no video available. Then Fuglesang and Curbeam screwed the 1.9 -ton aluminum adapter firmly to the P4 solar module. Then joined the two " outs " the power and data connections between P4 and P5 and move most S1 element a defective video camera. The use ended after 6 hours and 36 minutes.

During the EVA Ground Control told the astronauts that the evaluation of the produced heat shield from the shots has been completed and no evidence of damage resulted. Therefore, no additional tests would need to be recognized.

On 13 December and the gradual retraction of a solar wing was on the program. While Fuglesang and Curbeam rested from their first spacewalk, the other astronauts should fold one half of the P6 solar panel. The module had been brought with STS -97 in December 2000 and has since been supplying the ISS alone the entire power for the space station. It has been temporarily mounted at the Z1- element, wherein the solar panels are mounted in parallel to the "backbone" of the ISS. Thus, the P6- Backbordpaneel blocks the in 90 -degree angle to it brought wings of the P4 module the way if they have to be aligned to the sun.

The 35-meter solar wing 4B should be folded from 18:30 UTC in three steps. Although it was not known how the material would behave in space after six years, NASA was faced with more problems than expected. The first step - the folding of 3 of the 31 stripes - proceeded as planned. After that, the each one meter long " blinds vertical " canted over again. The control had the wings several times and roll it out, but could not bring himself to withdraw completely into the transportation canister the old sail. Houston broke after six and a half hours and 44 attempts from the project and let the sun wing 4B with 14 strips collected half extended back. According to NASA, this would have been enough to give installed in September with the last shuttle mission sun wing enough room to pivot to align to the sun. Thereafter, the STS -115 delivered collector P4 was first moved, and the cooling system is activated.

Christer Fuglesang and Robert Curbeam came on the sixth day of flying (December 14 ) with the preparations for their second spacewalk making such good progress that they could leave the airlock half an hour earlier than planned. At 19:41 UTC floated out the two spacemen from Quest and began the complex task to rewire the power line network of ISS. Previously, you had parts of the space station will be disconnected from the power supply.

Curbeam and Fuglesang went first to the S0 segment, which is located above the module Destiny. They had with their chunky gloves to remove 19 connector and 17 of them to connect to other jacks to produce the desired circuits on the power lines 2 and 3. The ground control was relieved, when activate two of the four MBSU distribution in S0 element problems " cable services" were after the. It was the first time since the structure was brought into space in April 2002 that the MBSUs were turned on. Shortly thereafter, the technician took in Houston the associated cooling circuit is in operation to derive the heat produced by the MBSUs. This program point also worked flawlessly.

Then the two " Electricians " the two ISS - dolly sat around to make room for the delivered with the next shuttle mission S3/S4-Modul is created on the starboard side of the space station. The two astronauts completed their workload so quickly that the second EVA of the mission with exactly five hours was shorter by 55 minutes than expected.

Because of the failed attempt to curl the port side of the solar panel P6 module two days earlier, the flight line NASA had for 15 December (seventh day of flying ) set the unruly sun sail quickly to the work program. With slight agitating the canted fins was moved to his body. Astronauts had been observed previously that continued during the daily Exercising vibrations caused in the sun filigree wings. What has been viewed as an unwanted side effect, could now be used to advantage.

This ten degrees about its longitudinal axis was reciprocated by activating the Ausrichtmotoren of the solar cell the boom. As a result, should the " wrinkles " smooth in the panel and align uptight guy wires. These have since been identified by NASA engineers as the main cause that the wing can not be rolled up. The first test was loose at 13:49 UTC, followed by another. When the hoped-for success failed to materialize, Thomas Reiter was active and hopped around 18:00 UTC on the IRED training device (Interim Resistive Exercise Device). And although the German in the Unity module was directly below the panel 4B, he was unable to effect.

After further attempts to leave the wing wobble about its longitudinal axis, the ground control activated the mechanical movement of the blade, to see whether the tilted solar cells could flatten now. It seemed as if a dozen slats glued together and the experiment was discontinued. Finally, it was decided that if time remains during the third exit, the astronauts would deal with the solar panel. Originally, NASA had wanted to avoid having to integrate additional work in the planned EVAs, since the laying of power lines is stressful enough. During the second exit, the astronauts were, however, made ​​such good progress that you umentschied itself.

The third spacewalk of mission completed on the eighth day of flying (December 16 ) the two days before work started on the power supply system of the space station. 2 and 3 were present have been reconfigured, the ISS - power lines, increased time and Robert Curbeam Sunita Williams the lines 1 and 4 in operation. To this end, the astronauts had again turned off parts of the station two hours before the start of the EVA.

19:25 UTC Curbeam left the Quest airlock, followed by Williams, who also floated feet first. As in the first part of the energy network expansion, the astronauts had the MBSUs connected in just under two hours on the S0 segment with the solar panels. Right after the disconnected areas of the ISS as well as the cooling circuit has been activated. Next task was the installation of a micro- meteorite shield on the third coupling adapter. This as a Service Module Debris Panel ( SMDP ) designated protection was mounted on a support structure in the cargo bay of Discovery. The ISS residents should install the called because of its appearance "Christmas Tree " SMDP at a later spacewalk to its final location on the Russian Zvezda module.

Again worked Williams and Curbeam so quickly that they could try in the last three hours of the exit to judge the jammed solar panel 4B. Around three dozen times they came against the solar tank and shook the mast of the sail. Lamellae way then a folding was attempted, but succeeded only in six strips before the outdoor use at 2:56 UTC ended the next morning. With seven hours and 31 minutes, the assignment took almost one and a half hours longer than estimated.

Even during the phase-out NASA decided to record two days later, a fourth EVA in the flight plan. The sole task of the Curbeam - Fuglesang duo should be the complete folding of the panel. At the same time the landing of Discovery was postponed for 24 hours.

After a day filled with arrangements of repair processes, the repackaging of the last pieces of equipment and preparing for the last spacewalk of the mission, began Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang on 18 December ( the tenth day of flying ) at 19:00 UTC the exit. All but two of the crew of ISS Expedition 14 flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Thomas Reiter, all astronauts were involved in the " rescue ": Sunita Williams and Joan Higginbotham served the ISS Picker, Michael López- Alegría and Nicholas Patrick controlled the engines of the wing, William Oefelein stayed on the schedule and Mark Polansky documented the events.

Curbeam worked out by the ISS robotic arm that was previously placed in the " area of ​​operations ". After a thorough visual inspection when he realized that the spacers for the guide cables showed signs of wear, he tried with an insulated scraper which is actually for the repair of heat protection tiles on board to clean these spacers. An hour later he had finished the first purge. Then Patrick and López- Alegría activated the roll motor to a slat retract the panel 4B. Fuglesang shook thereby supporting the sail to prevent tangling of wires. Subsequently, this procedure was repeated: Curbeam cleaned, Fuglesang wobbled, then again moving both the panel or loosened the wires.

To 23:54 UTC, after four and a half hours, they had made ​​it - all the 31 blades were folded in the box. Last still sticking a wire from the container, which had not been correctly rolled. Curbeam but also could solve this problem. He and Fuglesang completed the EVA after a total of 6 hours and 38 minutes. ( The next shuttle flight the other wing will be confiscated. For fall 2007, the implementation of the solar module to its final position at the extreme ISS port side as well as the re- deployment of the two wings is planned. )


On the eleventh mission day (December 19 ), the two crews adopted after a week of each other work harder and closed at 19:42 UTC, the hatches. After the last screening of the Discovery docked after exactly eight days at 22:10 UTC from the space station from. This is for the next half year, the home for the American Suni Williams, who arrived with the U.S. space shuttle. For the German Thomas Reiter, who had conducted research on board the ISS in July, returned back to Earth. Reiter flew as "half NASA astronaut " home, because he was at parting from the ISS commander Mike Lopez - Alegria honorary member of the U.S. astronaut corps appointed.

For 20 December (12th flight day ) was the last inspection of the heat shield of Discovery on the program, although there had been considerations NASA to abandon this because of the flight extension. Counter 17:00 UTC began the procedure several hours of in-depth review of the heat protection tiles. How to Start the mission felt the OBSS - Inspektionsarm sequentially from the starboard wing, the Orbiternase and the left wing. Indications of damage were not found.

Last program of the day was the launching of two mini- satellites, which were housed on a structure in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle: MEPSI ( Microelectromechanical system- based PicoSat Inspector ) was suspended on December 21 at 12:19 UTC and consists of two rope together connected cube-shaped small satellites - MEPSI 2A and 2B, page length is about ten centimeters - of together 3.5 kg ( COSPAR designation 2006- 055B ). He should prove that a cheap maintenance and monitoring of other satellites is possible with him.

One and a half hours later at 1:58 UTC, followed RAFT ( RAdar Fence transponder). It is an amateur radio satellite ( Navy - OSCAR 60), which was developed by students at the U.S. Naval Academy ( 2006- 055C ). At the same time MARScom (Military Affiliate Radio System communications ) was suspended ( 2006- 055D ). These two satellites have a cube shape - side length about 13 inches - and a total mass of 7 kg.

In addition to land preparation, a further double satellite was suspended on December 21. The launch took place at 18:23 UTC by a cannon -like device via a spring mechanism. ANDE (Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment) was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and consists of two small satellites: FCAL ( Fence Calibration, OSCAR 62, 2006- 055J ) with a mass of 75 kilograms and MAA ( Mock ANDE Active, OSCAR 61, 2006 - 055F ) with 50 kg to determine the atmospheric density and composition in orbits low altitude.

Due to the 24 -hour shift landing, NASA held just one reserve, 23 December. Since you wanted the day before attempt a landing, all three CONUS landing sites ( Continental United States ) were treated in readiness: the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Edwards Air Force Base in California and White Sands in New Mexico. The weather conditions for the West ( crosswind ) and the East Coast (rain) looked so bad that you can even White Sands hinzuzog where recently landed a shuttle 24 years ago. And although NASA meteorologists predicted only for New Mexico favorable weather, the flight line all options remained open and decided at the last moment, which landing site should be used.

Rain and low clouds led on 22 December to the fact that the planned for 20:56 UTC first landing opportunity of the 14th mission day for Florida had to be canceled two hours ago. After a " victory lap " Discovery of the rain front was south of the KSC pulled further and NASA gave the green light for a landing. With the firing of the braking engines of the reentry was initiated at 21:27 UTC ( deorbit burn ). The landing took place on schedule at 22:32:00 UTC, when the Space Shuttle at the time of the sunset with the main landing gear touched down on runway 15 at KSC. After the backup works, the Discovery was driven a few hours later in the Orbiter Processing Facility to prepare for their next space flight (STS- 120).


This mission is one of the most complex in the history of manned space flight. During the mission, the expansion of the ISS was pushed out by connecting the new awning P3 / 4 an important step. The problems encountered when installing the inner solar panel P6 problems could be solved by an additional entry and exit by the American Curbeam and Fuglesang Sweden in collaboration with the Mission Control in Houston. It was the first time that a spaceman four times and three times Europeans got out during a space shuttle mission in deep space. With STS -116 flew with Thomas Reiter and Christer Fuglesang two ESA astronauts back to Earth.