Space Shuttle Discovery to Launch with Three Hams on Board
Tuesday's launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-128) was scuttled when thunderstorms -- including a lightning strike just five miles from the launch pad -- popped up unexpectedly Monday evening, continuing into Tuesday morning. The shuttle, with a new launch date of Wednesday, August 26, will carry a crew of seven astronauts, including three radio amateurs.
Commanded by Frederick W. "Rick" Sturckow and piloted by Kevin A. Ford, Discovery is poised to blast off on a 13 day mission to deliver more than 7 tons of supplies, science racks and equipment, as well as additional environmental hardware to sustain six crew members on the International Space Station (ISS). The shuttle also has a crew of five Mission Specialists: José Hernández, KE5DAV; Nicole Stott, KE5GJN; Christer Fuglesang, SA0AFS/KE5CGR; Patrick G. Forrester, and John D. "Danny" Olivas.
When Discovery undocks from the ISS, Stott will be left behind in the orbital outpost. Timothy Kopra, KE5UDN -- who has been on the ISS since July -- will return to Earth on the shuttle. Kopra's departure and Stott's arrival makes for six astronauts on board the ISS, and all but one are licensed radio amateurs: Commander Gennady Padalka, RN3DT; Flight Engineer Michael Barratt, KD5MIJ; Flight Engineer Frank DeWinne, ON1DWN; Flight Engineer Robert Thirsk, VA3CSA, and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko.
Stott -- who holds a BS in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master's degree in engineering management from the University of Central Florida -- joined NASA in 1988 as an Operations Engineer in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Soon after, she was detailed to the Director of Shuttle Processing as part of a two-person team tasked with assessing the overall efficiency of shuttle processing flows and implementing tools for measuring the effectiveness of improvements. During her time at KSC, Stott also held a variety of positions within NASA Shuttle Processing, including Vehicle Operations Engineer, NASA Convoy Commander, Shuttle Flow Director for Endeavour and Orbiter Project Engineer for Columbia. In 1998, she joined the Johnson Space Center team in Houston as a member of the NASA Aircraft Operations Division, where she served as a Flight Simulation Engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft.
Selected as a mission specialist by NASA in July 2000, Stott reported for astronaut candidate training the next month. Following the completion of two years of training and evaluation, she was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch, where she performed crew evaluations of station payloads. She also worked as a support astronaut for the Expedition 10 crew. In April 2006, she was a crew member on the NEEMO 9 mission (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) where she lived and worked with a six- person crew for 18 days on the Aquarius undersea research habitat.
In a NASA pre-flight interview, Stott said that while on board the ISS, the crew will "be continuing the final assembly of the space station, and also moving more actively into the utilization phase of station, with the science and research that will be going on." Her primary responsibility on the ISS will be "to maintain the U.S. systems as well as the payloads that are on the US side, and that also includes the Japanese Experiment Module and the Columbus experiment module. And I think one of the really cool things about Expedition 20 and 21 is that we'll be a six person crew on board the station at that time."
STS-128 marks the first spaceflight for Hernández, a native of Stockton, California. Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2004, he completed his initial training in February 2006. While on Discovery, he is slated to perform robotic operations to inspect Discovery after launch and assist with cargo transfer from the shuttle to ISS. Hernández holds a BSEE in electrical engineering from the University of the Pacific and a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Fuglesang, from Sweden, is an astronaut with the European Space Agency (ESA); he flew as a mission specialist and conducted three spacewalks on STS-116 in 2006. He was selected to join the ESA astronaut corps in 1992 and began training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1996. Fuglesang has a master's degree in engineering physics from the Royal Institute of Technology and a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Stockholm.