STS -133 (English Space Transportation System) is a mission for the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery ( OV- 103), NASA. This was the third to last shuttle flight and the last flight of Discovery.

The mission STS -133 (ISS - ULF5 ) the fourth EXPRESS Logistics Carrier ( ELC4 ) and supplies with the PMM Leonardo were brought to the International Space Station. The PMM Leonardo remains permanently on the ISS. There were performed two spacewalks. A particular payload inside of Leonardo was a jointly developed by NASA and General Motors humanoid robot called Robonaut 2, which is to be tested upon return of the shuttle to Earth from the ISS crews.

  • 3.1 Start, Rendezvous and coupling
  • 3.2 Working on the ISS
  • 3.3 disconnecting, re-entry and landing


The crew was supposed to consist of only five people to save weight. On September 18, 2009, six crew members were from NASA but then announced:

  • Steven Lindsey ( 5 spacecraft ), Commander
  • Steve Bowen ( 3 space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Alvin Drew ( second space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Michael Barratt ( second space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Nicole Stott ( second space flight ), Mission Specialist

At the time of the announcement, Stott and Barratt 20 were as members of the ISS Expedition still in space.

Originally belonged to Tim Kopra to the crew, but he was replaced on 19 January by Bowen as copra had been injured in a bicycle accident on January 15. Bowen is from this circumstance the only NASA astronaut to participate in two consecutive flights. The record for the shortest time span between two missions continues to hold the crew of STS- 83 and STS -94.


After their final mission STS -131 Discovery was drawn to the usual maintenance and repair work in the Orbiter Processing Facility 3. Among other things there, the Ku- band antenna was repaired, had been canceled at the beginning of the previous mission. Also the right OMS engine segment was dismantled in order to replace a defective valve helium can. The External Tank ET -137 arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on May 8, 2010 and was transferred two days later in the Vehicle Assembly Building. He was let down on June 15 between the two solid rocket boosters. The completion of the work was delayed by a few days because one of the Abtrennbolzen was damaged and had to be replaced. On 9 September, the Discovery was last transferred for start preparations for the VAB. The so-called rollover has been greatly extended for this reason, so that the staff had several photo opportunities locally. The rollover was delayed due to the rupture of a 24-inch water main by one day, which required the one-day reduction to only absolutely necessary personnel. After mounting on the outer tank, the Discovery left the VAB on September 20 at their last scheduled rollout direction starting system 39 -A.

In mid-October, the crew flew to the terminal countdown demonstration test to the launch site where they could familiarize themselves with the space shuttle and the safety equipment and a countdown led by simulation. Around the same time reported technician from a hydrazine leak in the rear part of the Discovery, which was attributed to a connecting piece between the two tanks of the space shuttle. It was replaced on the launch site under difficult conditions. On 25 October it was finally after removing the standby flight (Flight Readiness Review ) set November 1 as a first available date.

GUCP problems and external tank damage

The first launch date on November 1, has been postponed by three days after a spare control unit for the main engine 3 experienced a glitch and faulty values ​​indicated. By simply interrupting the problem could be solved, but they wanted to give the engineers plenty of time to understand the problem. The second attempt on November 4 was discarded before the start of fueling of the external tank due to bad weather and arranged a further shift to 24 hours.

With a 20-minute delay the cooling of the fuel lines at 11:00 UTC signaled the beginning of the fueling of the external tank. However, this process ended prematurely because ( spoken GUCP Gup ) Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate on a specified interface between the hydrogen tank and the drain line for evaporating hydrogen, a hydrogen concentration of more than 6% was found. The offended against both the start criteria and against the safety rules, and then the attempt and the tank has been emptied. Subsequently, it was decided to abandon the rest of the start window in favor of a detailed analysis of the problem and a start from the results of the investigation to try dependent earliest on 30 November. After this decision was like, it was announced that had formed in the foam outer layer of the tank a crack, which would have prohibited a start in arrears and also had to be repaired. During the preparations for repairing the foam crack was discovered beneath the foam two cracks at a reinforcing rib ( Stringer) in the aluminum shell of the intermediate tank area, which should be remedied by placing a reinforcing piece.

While the repairs were done, engineers began to deal with the problems. The problem of GUCP leaks could be attributed to a non- gave misadjustment soon as the pickoff due to the continuous hydrogen changes its position slightly. In the present case, however so unfavorable GUCP was adjusted so that the movement of the arm, the amount of leakage of the hydrogen at the point increased drastically. Because of this fact it was now aware, it was believed to have solved the problem safely. As for the cracks on the tank but did not have the security that the foam does not flake off at the start and could make the Space Shuttle. Despite various analyzes as well as an inspection of the affected section with X-rays, it was decided that only one test could bring the needed security. Thus, the discovery on December 17 was tested as a full tank, while various sensors and markers documented the behavior of the tank with the fuel on board. The details of the test in the sense still stood out for analysis, however, it was found that the repairs to the GUCP were successful and remained the hydrogen concentration in the normal range.

In order to examine the inaccessible to the launch pad areas of the buffer tanks, the entire start -up was 22 December 2010 back to the Vehicle Assembly Building rolled back ( rollback). Between Christmas and New Year we examined the complete intermediate tank with x-rays and found four more cracks on the back of the tank, which should be repaired until 7 January 2011. It also decided to attach reinforcing elements at the connection points to the solid rocket boosters. This work will take about a week. As decisions for further modifications still ausstünden, it was decided to target also the launch window beginning of February not longer. On January 14, February 24 to be announced as the launch date. In the following days, the work was completed and Discovery was transferred back to the launch pad on Feb. 1, where the launch preparations were resumed. On February 18, another Flight Readiness Review was held, in which February 24 was set as the first date. The crew arrived at the Kennedy Space Center two days later.

Mission History

Start, Rendezvous and coupling

On February 21, the countdown began at the start, which was set for 24 February at 21:50 UTC. The weather did not cause any problems, although the Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands were not as emergency landing in an Abort -Once -Around - scenario. The countdown proceeded flawlessly to the T -9 minute interrupt. Shortly before the final GO-/NO-GO-Umfrage was known a computer problem with a person responsible for the security center of the bottom 45th Space Wing. In the Start Control Panel, it was decided, therefore, to allow the countdown to the end of the scheduled interruption continue to the T -5 minute mark and then stop again to get more time to solve problems. The launch was finally released and continue the countdown with just two seconds remaining in the start window. With a delay of about three minutes, the Discovery at 21:53:24 UTC took off for the last time, so after 2 minutes of burnt out the booster and were dropped off and the engines after 8.5 minutes of flight and the external tank has been jettisoned. Also the further ascent profile which ultimately led to the rendezvous with the ISS remained within the parameters, so that no additional thruster firing was necessary. After starting the orbiter for work in the next few days has been configured. There the cargo hold doors open and the robot arm activated and tested before the crew went to bed.

Flight day two (25 February ) was the usual inspection of the heat shield on the wing leading edges and the "nose" of the discovery by the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. Also on this day the space suits, which are to be worn during spacewalks, unpacked and made ​​some preparations for the docking on the following day.

On the third flight day (26 February ) it came to rendezvous with the ISS. Before coupling, the Discovery made ​​the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, so the station crew was able to capture the state of the heat shield in photos. For the first contact ( Soft Capture), it came at 19:14 UTC, but you had to wait about 40 minutes due to the relative motion between the station and shuttle until you could enter the docking ring of the shuttle to close the remaining gap (Hard Dock). It then began preparing to open the hatches, so that the crews could greet each other at 21:16 UTC. With the discovery for the first time there were seven individual spacecraft ( Beside her two Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and an Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-2 Transfer Vehicle) with a total mass of about 530 tons of the space station. This represents just the take-off weight of an Airbus A380. After the usual safety briefing the ELC -4 was, despite exceeding the normal working hours, on the same day transferred from the payload bay to its final position.

Work on the ISS

The fourth flight day (February 27 ) mainly served cargo transfers between the middle deck of the shuttle and the station. Also first interviews were conducted with U.S. broadcasters. Towards the end of the day, Drew and Bowen were preparing for their first exit and spent the night in the airlock to in a procedure called a campout, the inert gases in their bodies (mainly nitrogen) to reduce and so to prevent decompression sickness.

Lift-off, re-entry and landing

On March 7, the Discovery successfully docked on the ISS and made a flight around them. On March 9, the braking engines were fired at 15:52 UTC for 2 minutes and 31 seconds, which is the space shuttle at 96.7 m / s (about 348 km / h ) slowed and thus initiated the re-entry. The landing of Discovery was at 16:57:17 UTC ( 17:57:17 clock CET) at the Kennedy Space Center. Originally, the landing should take place already on March 7, but it was decided to extend the mission by two days in order to have enough time to mount the logistics module to the ISS.


On the missions STS -133 and STS -134 NASA offered under the slogan Fly Your Face in Space on a dedicated website, the ability to upload a photo that was shot with in the universe. It was also allows on another website under the motto NASA 's space rock called wakeup to choose songs for the mission STS -133. Also, users could submit their own compositions, which were then used as the wakeup song for the mission STS- 134.

Originally this was planned as the last flight in the shuttle program, why was provided first landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Then the shuttle should do a farewell tour across the United States to return to Kennedy Space Center.