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Space Shuttle Discovery is one of NASA's three remaining space shuttles.


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Space Shuttle Discovery is one of three remaining spacecraft in the Space Shuttle fleet belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), along with Atlantis and Endeavour. Space Shuttle Discovery was first flown in 1984, Space Shuttle Discovery is the third operational Space Shuttle and the oldest shuttle in service. Space Shuttle Discovery has performed both research and International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions.

Space Shuttle Discovery.
Space Shuttle Discovery.
Space Shuttle Discovery being prepared for mission STS-121.
OV Designation OV-103
Country United States
Contract award 29 January 1979
Named after RRS Discovery
First flight STS-41-D
30 August 1984 - 5 September 1984
Last flight STS-116
9 December 2006 - 22 December 2006
Number of missions 33
Crews 199
Time spent in space  268.62 days
Number of orbits 4,229
Distance travelled -176,657,672 km
-109,810,673 mi
Satellites deployed 31 (including Hubble Space Telescope)
Mir dockings 1
ISS dockings 7
Status Operational

The spacecraft takes its name from previous ships of exploration named Discovery, primarily HMS Discovery, the sailing ship that accompanied famous explorer James Cook on his third and final major voyage. Others include Henry Hudson's ship Discovery which he used in 1610-1611 to search for a Northwest Passage, and RRS Discovery, a vessel used for expeditions to Antarctica in 1901-1904 by Scott and Shackleton (and still preserved as a museum). The shuttle shares a name with Discovery One, the fictional Jupiter spaceship from the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

Discovery was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. The second and third Hubble service missions were also conducted by Discovery. She has also launched the Ulysses probe and three TDRS satellites. Discovery has been chosen twice as the return to flight orbiter, first in 1988 as the return to flight orbiter after the 1986 Challenger disaster, and then for the twin return to flight missions in July 2005 and July 2006 after the 2003 Columbia disaster. Discovery also carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 on October 29, 1998, making him the oldest human being to venture into space.

Had the planned missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base for the DOD gone ahead, Discovery would have flown these missions.

Space Shuttle Discovery Flights.

Space Shuttle Discovery has flown 33 flights, spent 241.95 days in space, completed 3,808 orbits, and flown 98,710,673 statute miles (158,859,429 km) in total, as of December 2006. It has flown the most flights of all Space Shuttles so far (a title it is likely to keep). Discovery has also flown on more individual flights than any other spacecraft in history and is likely to retain this honor for some time as no planned launch vehicles (neither American nor International) have a designed lifespan of more than 10 flights. Discovery has flown both "return to flight" missions after the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters: STS-26 in 1988 and STS-114 in 2005.

Space Shuttle Discovery.
The Space Shuttle Discovery approaches the International Space Station for docking but before the link-up occurred, the orbiter "posed" for a thorough series of inspection photo.

Notable missions of Space Shuttle Discovery.

  • STS-41-D: First flight.
  • STS-51-D: Carried first sitting United States Member of Congress into space, Senator Jake Garn (R-UT).
  • STS-26: Return to space after Challenger disaster (STS-51-L).
  • STS-31: Launch of Hubble Space Telescope.
  • STS-60: First Russian in an american spacecraft, Sergei Krikalyov.
  • STS-95: Second flight of John Glenn, oldest man in space and third sitting Member of Congress to enter space.
  • STS-92, the 100th Space Shuttle Mission.
  • STS-114: Return to space after Columbia disaster (STS-107).
  • STS-116: First night time launch of a shuttle since the Columbia disaster.

Flights listing for Space Shuttle Discovery.

#DateDesignationNotes
1 1984 August 30 STS-41-D First Discovery mission: Launched two Communications satellites, including LEASAT F2.
2 1984 November 8 STS-51-A Launched two and rescued two communications satellites including LEASAT F1.
3 1985 January 24 STS-51-C Launched DOD Magnum ELINT satellite.
4 1985 April 12 STS-51-D Launched two communications satellites including LEASAT F3.
5 1985 June 17 STS-51-G Launched two communications satellites, Sultan Salman al-Saud becomes first Saudi Arabian in space.
6 1985 August 27 STS-51-I Launched two communications satellites including LEASAT F4. Recovered LEASAT F3.
7 1988 September 29 STS-26 Return to flight since Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, launched TDRS.
8 1989 March 13 STS-29 Launched TDRS.
9 1989 November 22 STS-33 Launched DOD Magnum ELINT satellite.
10 1990 April 24 STS-31 Launch of Hubble Space Telescope (HST).
11 1990 October 6 STS-41 Launch of Ulysses.
12 1991 April 28 STS-39 Launched DOD Air Force Program-675 (AFP675) satellite.
13 1991 September 12 STS-48 Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).
14 1992 January 22 STS-42 International Microgravity Laboratory-1 (IML-1).
15 1992 December 2 STS-53 Department of Defense payload.
16 1993 April 8 STS-56 Atmospheric Laboratory (ATLAS-2).
17 1993 September 12 STS-51 Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS).
18 1994 February 3 STS-60 Wake Shield Facility (WSF).
19 1994 September 9 STS-64 LIDAR In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE).
20 1995 February 3 STS-63 Rendezvous with Mir space station.
21 1995 July 13 STS-70 7th Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS).
22 1997 February 11 STS-82 Servicing Hubble Space Telescope (HST) (HSM-2).
23 1997 August 7 STS-85 Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes.
24 1998 June 2 STS-91 Final Shuttle/Mir Docking Mission.
25 1998 October 29 STS-95 SPACEHAB, second flight of John Glenn, Pedro Duque becomes first Spaniard in space.
26 1999 May 27 STS-96 Resupply mission for the International Space Station.
27 1999 December 19 STS-103 Servicing Hubble Space Telescope (HST) (HSM-3A).
28 2000 October 11 STS-92 International Space Station Assembly Flight (carried and assembled the Z1 truss); 100th Shuttle mission.
29 2001 March 8 STS-102 International Space Station crew rotation flight (Expedition 1 and Expedition 2)
30 2001 August 10 STS-105 International Space Station crew and supplies delivery (Expedition 2 and Expedition 3)
31 2005 26 July STS-114 Return to flight since Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; International Space Station supplies delivery, new safety procedures testing and evaluation.
32 2006 July 4 STS-121 International Space Station crew and supplies delivery.
33 2006 December 9 STS-116 International Space Station crew rotation and assembly (carries and assembles the P5 truss segment).

Decommissioning of Space Shuttle Discovery.

Discovery’s first mission.
The launch of STS-41-D, Discovery’s first mission.
  • According to NASA, Space Shuttle Discovery will be decommissioned in 2010. If the Contingency Logistic Flight STS-133 by Endeavour will not be flown, Discovery will be the last Space Shuttle to fly on mission STS-132. NASA expects to launch the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle on the new Ares I rocket by 2014.



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