Final part of STS-31 images. Note: you may notice the G/accel indicator is giving weird indications (ie, .9G in orbit.) It was just introduced in the last service back in late December, and will probably be fixed soon.

I've only done about half a dozen reentries and landings in SSM07; but I have to say it is one of the most immersive, coolest simming experiences I've ever had. Going Mach 20+ through the fiery upper atmosphere while you can hear the RCS thrusters firing in the background frequently.

We've just begun our deorb burn off the western coast of Australia. The two OMS engines are functioning perfectly, each one at 100% as seen at the lower left of the image. Our 6+ minute OMS burn is done in the opposite direction we are traveling. IIRC, it only slows the shuttle down a few hundred miles per hour, but this is enough for the shuttle's orbit to decay.

We watch the sun set during our OMS burn. The sun is setting over Australia, but we should be landing during a sunrise at Edwards AFB, California.

After the burn, I manually maneuver the shuttle into the correct attitude. This will be the last time I touch the controls until after reentry. The mist right outside the shuttles window is a nose RCS jet firing as I maneuver.

Dumping the remaining nose RCS fuel before reentry.

The pilot starts the remaining two APUs and sets the HYD MAIN PUMP PRESS to NORM in preparation for Discovery using her aerodynamic surfaces to maneuver.

Then the pilot reactivates the Ascent Thrust Vector Controls (ATVC). This allows the main engine bells to position correctly for reentry. They were deactivated after launch, when they were used to steer the shuttle while the main engines were lit.

The pilot also sets all three AC BUS SNSR switches from AUTO TRIP to MONITOR to prevent the electrical system from shutting itself down. The same setting is also used during launch, just in case. If the AC systems need to be shut down, the crew can decide to do it themselves.

The pilot is busy just prior to Reentry Interface (REI). He also closes down the fuel and oxidizer valves for the forward RCS (the RCS rockets he just dumped fuel out of).

Altitude 1.375 MILLION feet, 6752 nm from Edwards smile.

The crew is fully suited up in their orange escape suits and it is dark on the flight deck as they wait to hit REI.

The commander brings up the SPI subsytem display to monitor control surface inputs and actual movements.

A little under 300K feet Houston warns of the imminent radio silence. Communication isn't possible during reentry. Edwards AFB is 1.4* to the left of the nose and 3,605nm away. IIRC, we're doing Mach 20-25.

The tiles on the orbiter's belly begin to glow due to the intense friction of slamming into the atmosphere at such a high speed. The crew should be seeing plasma swirling around outside their windows soon.

Just a little bit of orange at first outside the windows, then it really gets going. The shuttle is bumping up and down during all of this.

It's starting to decrease in intensity now.

The plasma is done, but the orbiter is still...Hot to the touch smile. In the top right corner, that splotch of light is one of the Hawaiian Islands.

A little over 2500 nm to go. Edwards is 7.2 * left of the nose. Descending through 235K with everything looking good.

The shuttle starts a series of S-turns to bleed off speed and altitude. Our first is to the left, at Mach 19+.

Starting radiator cooling. I do this out of sequence and trigger a FREON Master Caution. The beeping alarm is not what I want to hear at this point, but I figure it out after a few seconds and it silences itself once I correct my switchology.

Coming up on the West Coast during a roll reversal to the right.

The flight deck at sunrise.

Some more housekeeping to allow the drag chute to deploy properly, as well as using the ammonia boilers as heatsinks.

Coming left now.

Under Mach 5, it's safe to deploy the air sensors. The commander sets both to DEPLOY/HEAT
and both pilot and commander turn their HUDs on. The commander will be taking manual control of the orbiter shortly.

The pilot activates the radar altimeters.

Sunrise through the commander's HUD shortly after taking manual control of world's most expensive glider. To follow the guidance cues produced by the orbiter's computers, you keep the diamond centered in the square.

"On at the 90." Not my greatest approach.

On final to Runway 22 at just above 4,000. As you can probably tell, I'm high but pretty much on centerline.

I think I manage to pull off a pretty decent landing though.


The nose touches. Breaking.

Wheels stop! STS-31 is over. Getting out in those suits after a almost a week zero G is tough!

Now for a few days of post mission deprocessing at Dryden, then onto KSC on the back of a 747 and getting prepped for the next mission.


Last edited by vertical; 01/15/09 11:00 PM.

i7 2.4 GHz (turboup to 3.4 GHz)
Nvidia 650M 1GB
256 GB SSD

Saitek X52 & CH Pedals

Pulling the eject handle since discovering F-19 Stealth Fighter on a second hand PC.