STS-133 Discovery

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery Thermal Protection System belly tiles

Belly of the Beast

Secured in the Orbiter Processing Facility after her successful STS-133 mission, space shuttle Discovery is prepared for decomissioning and display at the Smithsonian Institution. Underneath Discovery and looking forward from roughly amidships, the orbiter’s Thermal Protection System tiles stretch forward toward the nose landing gear.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery panorama

STS-133 Launch Panorama

Space shuttle Discovery soars into the Florida skies, as seen in this 180° panorama taken from Astronaut Road. The massive Vehicle Assembly Building can be seen on the right, and Launch Complex 39B on the left. Click image to view larger.

STS-133 RSS Rollback Thumbnail

STS-133 RSS Rollback (timelapse)

The Rotating Service Structure is rolled back from space shuttle Discovery for the final time, revealing the veteran orbiter over the course of 45 minutes for launch the next day.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery launch plume

Launch of STS-133 (audio)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen] Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, roars into orbit, the crackling thunder of her twin Solid Rocket Boosters threatening to overwhelm the microphone.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery illuminated by Xenon lights on the launch pad

Discovery Xenon

High-powered Xenon lights illuminate space shuttle Discovery on the launch pad at LC-39A after rollback of the Rotating Service Structure, for STS-133′s first launch attempt in November of 2010.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery and the ISS in orbit over the Toronto skyline


The International Space Station, with a full complement of visiting vehicles from all participating nations including space shuttle Discovery, soars in orbit over Toronto at 7:02 P.M. This is a stacked set of eight images, the gaps in the trail are caused by the ~1 second delay between shutter actuations.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery on the launch pad after RSS rollback


Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, aims purposefully skyward on the launch pad immediately after rollback of the Rotating Service Structure.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery

Pillars of Fire

Riding twin pillars of fire, veteran space shuttle Discovery embarks on her final voyage to orbit from LC-39A. After this final mission, she’ll be processed and turned over to the Smithsonian for permanent display.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery SSME ignition and stabilization sequence

SSME Stabilization

Space shuttle Discovery’s SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines) stabilize after ignition in this sequence. From left to right, the rough orange flame stabilizes to form a smooth blue flow, displaying the characteristic “Mach diamonds”, formed by the supersonic flow of the engine’s exhaust.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery

One More Time

Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133 lifts off from the launch pad for the final time. Within twenty seconds of missing her launch window and being forced to abort, she had a flawless ascent to orbit.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery solid rocket booster staging progression

Staging Progression

Two minutes after launch, space shuttle Discovery’s twin Solid Rocket Boosters burn out and separate from the orbiter, to fall back to the Atlantic ocean for retrieval.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery roll program

Roll Program

Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, performs her roll program after clearing the tower at Launch Complex 39A.

STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery


Consuming 20,000 pounds of propellants every second, space shuttle Discovery lights up the lagoons of the Kennedy Space Centre on the final flight of her career.

STS-133 launch of space shuttle Discovery


Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, launches on the final flight of her career from LC-39A.