Discovery Cruises Through Flight Milestones

Like 3-2-1, orbiter Discovery has successfully shed its Solid Rocket Boosters and External Tank, and shut down the main engines after reaching space.

Solid Rocket Booster separation was triggered 2-minutes and 5-seconds into the flight after burnout of the putty-like fuel packed inside each rocket. The firing of explosive bolts freed the twin boosters from the side of the External Tank, allowing them to peel away from the Space Shuttle. Parachutes were then automatically deployed from the boosters, allowing them to slowly descend into the Atlantic Ocean where they will be towed back to shore.

Discovery initiated the command for Main Engine Cutoff, or MECO, at the 8-minute, 23-second mark. MECO shuts down the orbiter’s three powerful engines in the rear of Discovery after completing the “uphill” climb into space.

With the ascent into space complete and fuel onboard the External Tank exhausted, Discovery jettisoned the orange canister. Following jettison, Discovery used it’s new belly-mounted digital camera to take pictures of the tank as it fell back into Earth’s atmosphere.


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