|Names||Space Transportation System-117|
|Mission type||ISS assembly|
|Mission duration||12 days, 20 hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds|
|Distance travelled||8,500,000 kilometres (5,300,000 mi)|
|Spacecraft||Space Shuttle Discovery|
|Launch mass||120,413 kilograms (265,466 lb)|
|Landing mass||102,220 kilograms (225,350 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||10 December 2006, 01:47:35UTC|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39B|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||22 December 2006, 22:32:00UTC|
|Landing site||Kennedy SLF Runway 15|
|Epoch||12 December 2006|
|Docking with ISS|
|Docking date||11 December 2006, 22:12 UTC|
|Undocking date||19 December 2006, 22:10 UTC|
|Time docked||7 days, 23 hours, 58 minutes|
Back (L-R): Curbeam, Patrick, Williams, Fuglesang
Front (L-R): Oefelein, Higginbotham, Polansky
STS-116 was a Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) flown by Space Shuttle Discovery. Discovery lifted off on 9 December 2006 at 20:47:35 EST. A previous launch attempt on 7 December had been canceled due to cloud cover. It was the first night launch of a Space Shuttle since STS-113 in November 2002.
The mission is also referred to as ISS-12A.1 by the ISS program. The main goals of the mission were delivery and attachment of the International Space Station's P5 truss segment, a major rewiring of the station's power system, and exchange of ISS Expedition 14 personnel. The shuttle landed at 17:32 EST on 22 December 2006 at Kennedy Space Center 98 minutes off schedule due to unfavorable weather conditions. This mission was particularly notable to Sweden, being the first spaceflight of a Scandinavian astronaut (Christer Fuglesang).
STS-116 was the final scheduled Space Shuttle launch from Pad 39B as NASA reconfigured it for Ares I launches. The only remaining use of Pad 39B by the shuttle was as a reserve for the STS-400 Launch on Need mission to rescue the crew of STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, if their shuttle became damaged.
After STS-116, Discovery entered a period of maintenance. Its next mission would be STS-120 starting on 23 October 2007.
|Position||Launching astronaut||Landing astronaut|
|Commander|| Mark L. Polansky|
|Pilot|| William A. Oefelein|
|Mission Specialist 1|| Nicholas J. M. Patrick|
|Mission Specialist 2|| Robert Curbeam|
Third and last spaceflight
|Mission Specialist 3|| Christer Fuglesang, ESA|
|Mission Specialist 4|| Joan E. Higginbotham|
|Mission Specialist 5|| Sunita Williams
ISS Flight Engineer
| Thomas Reiter, ESA|
Second and last spaceflight
ISS Flight Engineer
Originally this mission was to carry the Expedition 8 crew to the ISS. The original crew was to be:
|Position||Launching astronaut||Landing astronaut|
|Mission Specialist 1||Christer Fuglesang, ESA|
|Mission Specialist 2||Robert Curbeam|
|Mission Specialist 3|| Michael Foale
| Yuri I. Malenchenko, RKA|
|Mission Specialist 4|| Bill McArthur
ISS Flight Engineer
| Ed Lu|
ISS Flight Engineer
|Mission Specialist 5|| Valery Tokarev, RKA
ISS Flight Engineer
| Aleksandr Y. Kaleri, RKA|
ISS Flight Engineer
As one of the main goals of STS-116 was to exchange ISS Expedition 14 crew members, the crew of STS-116 changed mid-flight. ISS Flight Engineer Sunita "Suni" Williams was part of the STS-116 crew for the first portion of the mission. She then replaced ISS Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter on the Expedition 14 crew and Reiter joined the STS-116 crew for the return to Earth.
During planned orbiter upgrades that took place subsequent to this mission, Discovery's Assembly Power Converter Units (APCUs) were removed and replaced with the shuttle-side components of the Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS). The APCUs converted 28VDC orbiter main bus power to 124VDC, compatible with the ISS's 120VDC main bus power. During initial station assembly missions, orbiter APCU power was used to augment the power available from the Russian service segment. With the operation of permanent main electrical systems (e.g. P4 array and SARJ, MBSUs, DDCUs, Ammonia cooling systems), orbiter power was no longer needed by the ISS.
After STS-118, Discovery and Endeavour drew power from the ISS, although Atlantis was never upgraded with the SSPTS. This system slowed the orbiters' consumption of hydrogen and oxygen used by their onboard electricity-generating fuel cells. The hydrogen and oxygen supplies, stored cryogenically in tanks aboard the orbiter, limited the duration of Space Shuttle missions. As a result of the changeover to SSPTS, Discovery and Endeavour gained approximately 50% of the time that would have been spent docked otherwise. This resulted in 2–4 extra days for each ISS-docked mission.
The primary payload for the STS-116 mission was the P5 Truss segment of the International Space Station. The shuttle also carried a Spacehab Logistics Module to resupply the ISS, and an Integrated Cargo Carrier with four sub-satellites, which were deployed after undocking from the ISS: the ANDE technology demonstrator (OSCAR 61 and 62), developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, and three CubeSats (RAFT-1 (OSCAR 60) and MARScom for the United States Naval Academy, and MEPSI 2A/2B for DARPA). It was the first Shuttle mission to deploy satellites since STS-113 in 2002.
|Bay 1–2||Orbiter Docking System||1,800 kilograms (4,000 lb)?|
|Bay 3||Tunnel Adapter||112 kilograms (247 lb)|
|Bay 4–5||Spacehab Logistics Module||5,399 kilograms (11,903 lb)|
|Bay 5P?||APCU (Assembly Power Converter Unit) (28VDC-to-124VDC)||2 x 35 kilograms (77 lb)
20 kilograms (44 lb)
|Bay 7–8||Truss segment P5||1,860 kilograms (4,100 lb)|
|total 2,942 kilograms (6,486 lb)|
|Sill||OBSS (Orbital Boom Sensor System) 202||450 kilograms (990 lb)?|
|Sill||RMS 303||390 kilograms (860 lb)|
|Total 12,500 kilograms (27,600 lb)|
STS-116 was planned (post return-to-flight) to launch on 14 December 2006. But on 29 November 2006 NASA announced that the launch team had been asked to aim for a launch on 7 December 2006 rather than the original target date of 14 December. The launch window for the STS-116 mission opened on 7 December and extended through 17 December. The seven-member flight crew arrived for launch at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility on 3 December 2006 in the afternoon. Primary payloads on the 13-day mission were the P5 integrated truss segment, SPACEHAB single logistics module, and an integrated cargo carrier. The STS-116 mission was the 20th Shuttle flight to the station.
Launch on the new, earlier date required a night-time launch. Subsequent to the Columbia disaster, NASA had imposed rules requiring shuttle launches to be conducted during the day, when light would be sufficient for cameras to observe falling debris. With the redesign of shuttle tank foam having minimized the amount of falling debris and the availability of in-orbit inspection procedures, the daylight-launch requirement was relaxed.
Rollover of Discovery to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) occurred on 31 October, and on 1 November the orbiter was raised into a vertical orientation and moved into High Bay 3 to be mated with the external tank and solid rocket boosters. Rollout to Launch Complex 39B was completed on Thursday 11 November.
The crew for the mission arrived at Kennedy Space Center on 13 November to begin their final four-day prelaunch training for the mission, which included familiarization activities, rehearsal of emergency procedures and practice on NASA's Shuttle Training Aircraft, along with a simulated countdown, which took place on the morning of 16 November 2006. The astronauts then traveled to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and returned to Kennedy Space Center on 3 December 2006, four days before the planned launch date.
The payloads for the mission, including a SPACEHAB module and the P5 truss, were loaded from the payload canister into Discovery's payload bay on 16 November, and, with the sealing of the payload bay doors, all that remained was to fill the external fuel tank before the Discovery shuttle stack was in full launch configuration. With the completion of the Flight Readiness Review over 28–29 November (which evaluated all activities and elements necessary for the safe and successful performance of the shuttle during the mission, including the Orbiter itself, the payload and flight crew), Discovery was given her Certificate of Flight Readiness, the launch date was officially set to 7 December 2006, and the mission officially given the "Go" for launch.
Following the completion of the pre-launch preparations, all eyes were on the Florida skies, due to a forecast low cloud ceiling for the night of the launch. The mission's seven astronauts were loaded into Discovery ready for the scheduled launch at 21:37 EST, with hopes high for a break in the clouds, but as the scheduled launch time approached it became apparent that the cloud would not break, and the launch attempt was scrubbed, with the next attempt scheduled for 9 December 2006. Prior to the initial attempt on 7 December, NASA had determined that they would not attempt a launch on Friday because of a cold front moving in that eventually scrubbed Thursday's launch attempt.
|Attempt||Planned||Result||Turnaround||Reason||Decision point||Weather go (%)||Notes|
|1||7 Dec 2006, 9:35:48 pm||Scrubbed||—||Weather||30%||NASA opted for 48-hour turnaround instead of 24 due to 10% go weather forecast for 8 December 2006|
|2||9 Dec 2006, 8:47:35 pm||Success||1 day, 23 hours, 12 minutes||70%|
Discovery lifted off successfully at 8:47 pm EST (01:47 UTC), lighting up the Florida's coastline. Weather conditions – in particular crosswinds at the launch and landing sites – continued to trend positively in the hours approaching the launch window Saturday night. The fueling process for Discovery's external tanks began at 12:46 EST (17:46 UTC) and was completed at approximately 15:45 EST (20:45 UTC). If a transatlantic abort landing (TAL) had been required during ascent, the shuttle had three possible landing sites: Zaragoza or Morón Air Base in Spain, or Istres, France.
The launch was the third shuttle mission in five months, being preceded by STS-121 in July and STS-115 in September, and was the first night launch in four years since STS-113 and first night launch following the Columbia accident during STS-107. It is also the last time a shuttle launched from LC-39B.
Flight day 2 began for the astronauts at 15:47 UTC. The first order of business for the day was a thorough inspection of the Shuttle. Using sensors and cameras attached to a fifty-foot boom, which was in turn connected to a fifty-foot robotic arm, Nicholas Patrick inspected the leading edge of the wings and the nose cap. The process, which took five and a half hours, suffered a minor glitch that required Patrick to order the arm to manually grab the boom. During this time, the crew also inspected the upper surface of the orbiter. Astronauts also completed a check of the spacesuits to be used during the mission, along with preparation for docking with the International Space Station.
Flight day 3 began for the astronauts at 15:18 UTC. Following the rendezvous pitch maneuver, docking to the International Space Station occurred at 22:12 UTC. The hatch between the International Space Station and Discovery was opened at 23:54 UTC. The joint ISS/Shuttle crew then worked to undertake some further detailed inspection of the orbiter and unloaded the P5 truss segment from the payload bay, handing it off successfully from the shuttle robotic arm to the station arm. The astronauts scheduled for Day 4's EVA, Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang, ended their day by entering the airlock for a "campout" sleep session to prepare for the EVA by purging their bodies of nitrogen in a lower-pressure environment. Such a practice is common in order for the astronauts to avoid getting decompression sickness.
Flight day 4 began for the astronauts at 15:47 UTC. During the first EVA of the mission, the astronauts of STS-116 brought the ISS one step closer to completion with the addition of the P5 truss segment.
The EVA began at 20:31 UTC, with Curbeam and Fuglesang removing launch restraints from the P5 truss and Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham making use of the station's robotic arm (the Canadarm2) to move the truss segment to within inches of its new position on the P4 truss. The spacewalkers then guided Higginbotham with visual cues as the precise operation to finalize the attachment of the truss was completed.
After the P5's attachment, Curbeam and Fuglesang finalized the installation with power, data and heater cable connections. They also replaced a faulty video camera attached to the S1 truss. Since they worked ahead of the time-line, the two astronauts were also able to complete some get-ahead tasks.
At the end of the spacewalk, Curbeam congratulated the Nobel Prize winners, including scientist Dr. John C. Mather at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mather was honored for his work on the big-bang theory. Christer Fuglesang also held a short speech in Swedish, encouraging Swedes and others to aspire to become future astronauts. The EVA concluded at 03:07 UTC on the morning of 13 December, and lasted for 6 hours and 36 minutes in total.
During the spacewalk, after taking a close look at imagery gathered on the first three days of the flight, mission managers determined that the shuttle's heat shield would support a safe return to Earth. They also decided a more detailed inspection that had been scheduled for later in the mission would not be necessary.
Three more spacewalks, one of which was unplanned, were required to reconfigure and redistribute power on the station, so that the solar arrays installed during STS-115 could be used. The first step of reconfiguring the power took place Wednesday when the port solar array on the P6 truss was retracted, which allowed the activation and rotation of the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint on the P4. The rotary joint allows the solar arrays on the P4 to track the Sun.
The astronauts were required to spend the night sleeping in protected areas in order to avoid radiation from a solar flare eruption.
Flight day 5 began for the astronauts at 15:21 UTC. The most high-profile activity was the attempted retraction of the P6 port-side solar array. The process began at 18:28 UTC, but problems with the array folding due to 'kinks' and 'billows' led the controllers to redeploy the array (from about 40% retracted). There then followed a series of more than 40 commands to furl and unfurl the arrays in an effort to get them properly aligned and folded.
At 00:50 UTC, the retraction efforts were abandoned for the day. The problems, which appear to have been caused by a loss of tension in the solar array guide wires, had still not been solved, although 14 of the 31 bays on the array had been retracted (leaving 17 bays extended). This was enough to leave the port side arrays in a safe position to commence the activation of the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) at 01:00 UTC, allowing the solar arrays on the P3/P4 truss to rotate to follow the sun.
Flight day 6 began for the astronauts at 15:19 UTC. The day's primary activity, EVA No. 2, began rewiring work to bring the station's permanent electrical power systems into use. To allow this changeover, station controllers had to power down about half the systems on the ISS. The EVA started at 19:41 UTC with Bob Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang exiting the Quest airlock, 30 minutes early. EVA No. 2 was planned to activate channels 2 and 3 of the four-channel electrical system, and the work progressed smoothly. About two hours into the spacewalk the first current was flowing through the reconfigured system, using the power from the P4 solar arrays for the first time. The EVA was completed in exactly 5 hours, finishing at 00:41 UTC.
Flight day 7 was a light work day for the crews of Discovery and the ISS after the previous days' activities. Spacewalkers Bob Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang enjoyed some R&R, while the rest of the crew performed cleanup and preparatory tasks for Flight day 8's planned EVA #3. The traditional joint photo session and joint news conference were held by the crews. During this event Swedish first time astronaut Christer Fuglesang was interviewed by Crown Princess Victoria and also set a 20-second Frisbee world record in space, broadcast live on Swedish TV4.
In an attempt to free a stuck solar panel, Thomas Reiter exercised vigorously on a machine which is known to cause oscillations in the solar arrays; it was not successful. Mission controllers continued to look at other solutions to the solar panel folding problem so as to enable complete retraction, including an extended or additional EVA.
Flight day 8 began for the astronauts at 14:48 UTC. Astronauts Bob Curbeam and 'Suni' Williams completed the rewiring work on the International Space Station. The EVA began at 19:25 UTC and proceeded normally. As an "add-on task" to the EVA, astronauts Curbeam and Williams also continued work on the retraction of a sticking solar array, enabling the retraction of another six sections of the P6 array. At the end of the EVA there were another 11 "bays", or 35% left to retract. Upon completion of the EVA, the astronauts returned to the ISS via the Quest airlock.
Another significant event during the EVA was the loss of 'Suni' Williams' digital camera. At the post-EVA press conference it was suggested that a tether got snagged and caused the camera release button to break off allowing the camera to fall out of its holder. Images were lost but it was determined there was no need to retake them. Curbeam later said to the MCC: "We've got the bracket and the tether. Looks like the screws [on the bracket] came loose, we have the screws and the bracket and the tether."
Flight day 9 was mainly spent preparing for EVA #4. The space suits were prepared (adjusting sizes and replacing LiOH canisters) and the crew went through the new procedures which had been developed for attempting to enable the solar array retraction. Various tools were coated in kapton tape to protect the array from coming into direct contact with sharp metallic objects and to provide electrical insulation if they are used to manipulate the arrays during the EVA.
Flight day 10 began for the astronauts at 14:17 UTC. Bob Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang embarked on an added EVA at 17:12 UTC to try to fully close the last eleven bays of the balky P6-port Solar Array Wing. The rapidly planned EVA was successfully completed after a 6-hour 38-minute spacewalk. At the end of EVA No. 4, Curbeam ranked fifth in total EVA time for U.S. astronauts and 14th overall.
Flight day 11 began for the astronauts at approximately 14:47 UTC. The Expedition 14 and STS-116 crews posed for photos and then closed the hatches between the ISS and Discovery. Undocking was complete at 22:10 UTC. Due to the extended mission for EVA No. 4, Discovery did not make a full circle to film and photograph ISS, but only flew slightly more than one-quarter of the way around (through ISS zenith) before its departure burn.
Flight day 12 began for the astronauts at 12:48 UTC. They spent the day verifying the integrity of Discovery's heat shield and preparing for deorbit and landing on 22 December 2006 (Flight day 14). Because of the extended spaceflight, the shuttle was required to make a landing attempt on flight day 14 unless all three landing sites were "no-go." Two satellites were also launched: MEPSI (Microelectromechanical System-Based PICOSAT Inspector) resembles a pair of tethered coffee-cups, and is being tested as a reconnaissance option for disabled satellites; RAFT (Radar Fence Transponder) is a pair of 5" cubes built by the U.S. Naval Academy which will test space radar systems and also act as data relays for mobile ground communications.
Flight day 13 began for the astronauts at 12:17 UTC. Discovery's crew launched the ANDE (Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment) microsats for the Naval Research Laboratory, which were designed to measure the density and composition of the low Earth orbit atmosphere in order to help better predict the movements of objects in orbit, but one of the satellites failed to emerge from its launch canister. ANDE is currently transmitting data, and emerged from the canister approximately 30 minutes after its launch according to satellite tracking data.
Flight day 14 began for the astronauts at 12:17 UTC. Preparations for landing were complete. High cross-winds precluded a landing at Edwards Air Force Base while clouds and showers were an issue at Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on the first orbit. That combination raised the possibility of the first landing at White Sands Space Harbor since STS-3 in 1982. Had landing taken place at White Sands, it could have taken as long as 60 days to return the orbiter to Kennedy Space Center. The first landing opportunity at Kennedy Space Center was abandoned due to unfavorable weather conditions. However, at 21:00 UTC coordinates were sent to the shuttle to re-attempt a landing at Kennedy along runway 15, as the first contingency landing attempt at Edwards had been called off due to high crosswinds. The de-orbit burn for Kennedy occurred at 21:27 UTC, having been authorized at 21:23 UTC, and was finished at 21:31 UTC. Since the landing time coincided with the local sunset time 17:32 EST (22:32 UTC), the shuttle landing was not considered a night landing, as official rules for a night landing are sunset + 15 minutes; however, the xenon runway lighting system was in use. Discovery touched down 30 seconds before the expected time. Landing time at Kennedy was at 17:32 EST (22:32 UTC).
Main article: STS-3xx
STS-301 was the designation given to the Contingency Shuttle Crew Support mission which would have been launched in the event Space Shuttle Atlantis had become disabled during STS-115. It was a modified version of the STS-116 mission, which would have involved the launch date being brought forward. If needed, it would have launched no earlier than 11 November 2006. The crew for this mission was a four-person subset of the full STS-116 crew:
In the event that Discovery suffered irreparable damage but made it to Earth orbit during STS-116, the crew would have taken refuge at the ISS and waited for a Contingency Shuttle Crew Support mission to launch. The mission would have been named STS-317 and would have been flown by the Space Shuttle Atlantis no earlier than 21 February 2007. The crew for this rescue mission would have been a subset of the full STS-117 crew.
A tradition for NASA spaceflights since the days of Gemini, mission crews are played a special musical track at the start of each day in space. Each track is specially chosen, often by their family, and usually has special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.
|Mission||Spacewalkers||Start – UTC||End – UTC||Duration||Mission|
|12 December 2006
|13 December 2006
|6 h 36 min||Install P5 truss|
|14 December 2006
|15 December 2006
|5 h 00 min||Rewiring station electrical system (circuits 2/3)|
|16 December 2006
|17 December 2006
|7 h 31 min||Rewiring station electrical system (circuits 1/4)|
|18 December 2006
|19 December 2006
|6 h 38 min||Retract port Solar Array Wing on P6 truss|