STS-128 crew in launch dress rehearsal
ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and his six STS-128 crewmates have completed a launch countdown dress rehearsal at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in preparation for launch to the International Space Station later this month.
The practice countdown, or Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT), is considered a key training exercise both for the astronauts and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch team. The exercise gives engineers an opportunity to run through the preparations leading up to a Shuttle launch. It also serves as a launch-day dress rehearsal for the astronauts.
The STS-128 crew arrived at KSC on Wednesday 5 August. During their first day of training the crew was familiarised with the M-113 armoured personnel carrier which is used to evacuate the crew from the launch pad in the case of fire.
On Thursday the crew visited Launch Pad 39A where Space Shuttle Discovery stands ready for launch. At the top of the launch pad they practiced getting into the slidewire baskets that would carry the crew away from the pad during an emergency.
As the final exercise in the TCDT, the crew donned their orange partial-pressure suits and entered Discovery for a simulation of the launch countdown and to practice an emergency evacuation of the launch pad.
The STS-128 mission includes vital preparations for the arrival of the European-built Node 3 in February 2010. As well as important EVA maintenance tasks, the transportation of experiment equipment to the ISS, including a European-built MELFI freezer, and return of important payloads back to Earth including the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), which has been located on the outside of the European Columbus laboratory for one and a half years. The mission also exchanges an ISS Expedition crewmember. STS-128 is scheduled for launch on 25 August.