Shuttle Crew Completes Landing Systems Tests

The shuttle crew earlier this morning checked out two systems for tomorrow’s landing. The astronauts completed a test of the Reaction Control System steering thrusters that will help control Endeavour’s attitude and speed after the deorbit burn. During that test, one of the jets, F2F, failed. This will not be an issue for landing. The crew also tested the shuttle aerosurfaces and flight control system that will be used once the shuttle enters the atmosphere.

Twin satellite deployments and a check of the systems that will control Endeavour’s return home to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, are on tap today as the shuttle leads the International Space Station in orbit.

The crew was awakened at 1:03 a.m. CDT to the sounds of “I Got You Babe,” performed by Sonny and Cher. The song was a special request for Koichi Wakata, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut to serve as a long-duration resident of the station. Wakata spent 133 days as an Expedition 18, 19 and 20 crewmember, and will be returning home after 138 days in space.

Early in the day, STS-127 Commander Mark Polansky and Pilot Doug Hurley will test the thruster jets and aerodynamic control surfaces that will be used to guide Endeavour to a landing planned for 9:48 a.m. Friday. Flight Director Bryan Lunney and the entry team of flight controllers will be in Mission Control to monitor the tests.

Once those checks are complete, the crew will deploy two pairs of small satellites.

The first, called Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite (DRAGONSat), will look at independent rendezvous of spacecraft in orbit using Global Positioning Satellite data. The two satellites, to be ejected from Endeavour’s cargo bay at 7:33 a.m., were designed and built by students at the University of Texas, Austin, and Texas A&M University, College Station.

The second, called Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment-2 (ANDE-2), will be deployed at 12:22 p.m. The ANDE-2 microsatellites will measure the density and composition of the rarified atmosphere 200 miles above the Earth’s surface.

On the space station, the Expedition 20 crew is scheduled to “walk” Canadarm2 away from its current base on the Harmony module to the Mobile Base System on the station’s truss backbone. That will position the arm for a ground-controlled move of the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator from the Destiny Laboratory to the mobile base later in the day. Body mass measurements, housekeeping and research also are planned.