Robonaut 2 One of the Highlights of NASA’s STS-133 Payload Event

By jason_rhian
August 14, 2010
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CAPE CANAVERAL — Yesterday NASA held an event at Kennedy Space Center to showcase some of the flight hardware that will travel to the International Space Station onboard Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-133, NASA’s next shuttle flight. This includes the so-called “7th” crew member of the mission – Robonaut 2 (or R2 as it is more commonly known). Held at the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) the event displayed most of the elements that Discovery will lift to orbit on Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.

The most notable piece of hardware – was not originally slated to fly into space at all. Robonaut 2 (R2) was originally only designed as a technology demonstrator, however, engineers wanted to see how the system would operate in space and it was added to the STS-133 payload. The mostly white, gold-helmeted android will be contained within the primary piece of cargo for this mission – the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).

In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, author Jason Rhian enthusiastically shakes the hand of Robonaut (R2). Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

Robonaut 2 was just one of several elements of flight hardware that the space agency had out for members of the media to view. The largest, most obvious of these was the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM). The PMM is a modified Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and will be left attached to the station when the Space Shuttle Discovery leaves the station. NASA plans to utilize this new station segment as a place to store spare equipment, supplies and waste – these items are currently stored in locations all over the space station.

“What has changed is now instead of the MPLM being called Leonardo, it will now be the PM Leonardo,” said NASA’s Mission Manager for ULF-5, Scott Higginbotham, during the event on Thursday. “What we have done is converted our Multi-Purpose Logistics Module into a permanent vehicle that we will leave behind at the station to essentially serve as the extra garage you always wanted.”

Cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko floats inside Leonardo, the first MPLM to deliver supplies to the Station. Credit: NASA

Discovery will also carry Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) DragonEye (DE) navigation sensor to the ISS on this flight.

STS-133 could be Discovery’s last mission although it has been hinted that if there is an STS-135 – Discovery might fly that mission. This will be the 35th time that a space shuttle has traveled to the ISS. The crew consists of Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot, Eric Boe and Mission Specialists; Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Tim Kopra and Michael Barratt. Currently there are two planned spacewalks on this mission.