NASA Podcasts

STS-119 Prelaunch Webcast
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Damon Talley/NASA Digital Learning Network:
Hi, and welcome to another exciting year of space shuttle launches as we continue construction of the International Space Station. I'm your host, Damon Talley with NASA's Digital Learning Network. Have you ever wondered how the massive space station segments are prepared and packed for their trip into space? Well, we're going to show you the huge facility at Kennedy Space Center where all the final checkouts and preparations take place. We'll also learn about the segment set to fly aboard Discovery on the STS-119 mission. Then we'll introduce you to the crew set to carry out the mission. Before I join the payload manager inside Kennedy's Space Station Processing Facility, let's learn a little more about this unique building.

The Space Station Processing Facility is in the Kennedy Space Center Industrial Area. Built to handle the final processing of space station components, it was completed in 1994. The three-story facility has 457,000 square feet of space. The building includes two processing bays, an airlock, operational control rooms, laboratories, logistics areas, office space and a cafeteria. As the last stop on Earth for each space station segment and module, this is where teams of technicians carry out the final preparation, inspection and testing. International partners, like European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency send teams of technicians to prepare their modules in the facility. The processing facility also is where astronauts get final hands-on experience with hardware they will later install on the station during their missions.

And here we are in the high bay of the Space Station Processing Facility. This place is huge! It has eight "footprints" -- or separate locations for the various segments to be processed. Right now, technicians are working on the external component of the Japanese Kibo module, the Cupola module, and Node 3 set to arrive soon. Here we also have all three of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules used to carry supplies to the station. And down at that end is where they bring in the large canister to transfer the segments to the launch pad.

Joining me is Robby Ashley, manager for this mission's payload. Robby, tell us how the STS-119 S6, or Starboard 6, payload was processed here.

Robby Ashley/STS-119 Payload Mission Manager:
OK. It's my pleasure to be here, Damon. S6 arrived in two pieces actually, back in December 2002. There was the integrated equipment assembly and the long spacer. After completing installation of all the electronics boxes, we did a quick functional checkout just to make sure everything was functioning properly and then we integrated the two elements -- the long spacer to the IEA, or integrated equipment assembly, back in September of 2003.

When the processing is finished, how is the segment loaded and transported to the launch pad?

Well, we have a payload canister, which is basically, it's built to the dimensions of the orbiter's payload bay and it rides on a crawler-transporter. And we lift it out of its work stand, translate it down the length of the high bay and install it in the payload canister. We install the payload vertically at the launch pad. And once we get out to the launch pad, the payload canister is hoisted up to the 195-foot-level where we have a payload clean room, or it's referred to the payload changeout room. We install the payload into the payload changeout room where it awaits the arrival of the shuttle.

And that's where the S6 is now -- tucked inside the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery as it stands ready just a few miles from here on Launch Pad 39A. Now we'd like you to meet Discovery's crew members who will install the S6 truss.

When Discovery's astronauts are finished with the STS-119 mission, they will leave the space station with the ability to generate enough power to support a crew of six. That's because they will deliver and install the S6 -- the final truss segment with its set of solar arrays attached -- performing four spacewalks during the mission. Led by Commander Lee Archambault, the crew members are Pilot Tony Antonelli, Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, and Koichi Wakata from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Wakata will stay aboard the station at the end of the mission, and current station resident Sandy Magnus will return to Earth aboard Discovery. The spacewalkers will have their work cut out for them, since the S6 must be installed at the farthest end to the right, or starboard, side of the station. That means the station's robotic arm must extend its reach about as far as it will go, leaving little room to maneuver. Once the segment is attached, the two 115-foot solar wings will be carefully unfolded. Mission Specialist John Phillips is charged with that critical task. Phillips previously lived and worked aboard the space station as science officer and flight engineer for the Expedition 11 crew. He describes the teamwork involved in the deployment of the solar wings.

John Phillips/STS-119 Mission Specialist:
"We've got the entire shuttle crew work on this. We’ve got 12 TV monitors up looking at different views. We’ve got a guy on the shuttle, six guys on the station and I -- and it's a big team effort. When we unfold these arrays, they’re coming out of the boxes and they’re, and they’re pleated together, and the pleats are flattening as they come out of the boxes.

With plenty of troubleshooting time built into the mission, the teams on Earth and in space will breathe a collective sigh of relief when the arrays are fully extended. As Discovery and crew depart the station at the end of their 14-day mission, they will be able to give us all the first look at the space station with the full expanse of its superstructure and solar wings in place.

Well the payload is ready, the crew is ready and the space shuttle Discovery is poised for liftoff. Live coverage begins about five hours before liftoff on NASA TV and on NASA's Launch Blog -- that's at You can also join me for a live interactive webcast beginning one hour before the launch and even submit questions via e-mail at I'm Damon Talley -- thanks for joining us -- and go Discovery!

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