Solar Shuttle

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The countdown is underway for Discovery’s STS-119 mission.  Matt and I missed being at the launch by a few weeks, while we were in Florida.  There were delays with the control valves that have been fixed.  The new launch date is set for Wednesday March 11th at 9:20 pm,  Sunday, March 15th  at 7:43 p.m. EDT.  It will be one of the very cool night sunset launches.

The STS-119 astronauts pose for a formal crew portrait. In the front row (right) are Lee Archambault, commander and Tony Antonelli, pilot. In the back (left) are Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, all mission specialists.  There will also be one “passenger” exchange, Koichi Wakata will be giving his seat to Sandra Magnus for the ride home.  He stays behind to return on another mission.  She has been on the space station for 4 months and it is her time to come home.

STS119-S-001 [Converted]On the sustainability front this is an exciting mission.  They will be carrying and installing the last of the large trusses and solar arrays that will power the space station.  Here are some of the facts from NASA’s website

Space shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 crew is set to fly the S6 truss segment and install the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the International Space Station.

The S6 truss, with its set of large U.S. solar arrays, will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six.

The two solar array wings each have 115-foot-long arrays, for a total wing span of 240 feet. They will generate 66 kilowatts of electricity — enough to provide about 30 2,800-square-foot homes with power.

The mission patch references the mission by highlighting the S6 Truss with solar array and the American flag coming from the tail of the spacecraft is signifying U.S.’s support of the International Space Station as well as the support of the American people.

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I wonder if the solar panels in space gather more energy from the sun or are made differently than those on the planet?  There proximity to the sun and the lack of ozone hampering its power would lead me to think that they are.  It is exciting to think of our future world supported completely on the power of the sun.

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