HOUSTON — NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a Jan. 15 bicycle accident, will be replaced as one of two spacewalkers assigned to shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 mission, the space agency announced Jan. 19.
Veteran astronaut Steve Bowen will take Kopra’s place aboard Discovery, which is tentatively scheduled to lift off on a long-delayed 11-day assembly mission to the International Space Station on Feb. 24 at 4:50 p.m. EST.
Discovery’s flight has been on hold since Nov. 5 while shuttle managers complete their troubleshooting of small cracks that surfaced in the stringer region of the orbiter’s external fuel tank.
While the Feb. 24 launch target remains intact, Kopra could rejoin the mission if the final scheduled flight of Discovery were to meet with another delay, NASA Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson says.
Bowen logged five spacewalks as a mission specialist aboard the 12-day STS-132 and 16-day STS-126 space station assembly missions in May 2010 and November 2008.
A U.S. Navy captain and the astronaut corps’ first submarine officer, Bowen also will serve as Discovery’s flight engineer. Bowen will join Discovery astronaut Alvin Drew for two spacewalks.
The spacewalkers will clean up the work site on the station’s long solar power system truss where the crew of the orbiting science laboratory replaced a faulty cooling system pump during a fast-paced series of spacewalks last August. The bulky pump motor was left temporarily fastened to the truss.
Bowen and Drew will vent residual ammonia coolant from the pump and move the bulky hardware back to an external storage rack near the U.S. segment airlock. NASA hopes to return the motor to Earth aboard Atlantis later this year, if the White House and Congress agree to fund the flight that NASA is designating STS-135.
NASA disclosed Kopra’s injuries late Jan. 15. He suffered a broken hip, which required surgery. The 47-year-old astronaut “will be OK,” the space agency said.