Friday, August 21, 2009

Live at KSC: Discovery countdown under way

The countdown is on.

At 11 p.m., mission clocks at Kennedy Space Center began ticking down toward space shuttle Discovery's 1:36 a.m. Tuesday launch to the International Space Station.

The countdown began at the T minus 43-hour mark, a duration that doesn't include seven scheduled pauses along the way ranging from 10 mintues to more than 12 hours.

Earlier today, a NASA official said Endeavour was in good shape for launch, and meteorologists predicted a 70 percent chance of favorable weather Tuesday.

KSC technicians expect to finish inspections of Discovery's rear engine area tonight.

On Saturday, they'll configure the shuttle's avionics systems and prepare to load three fuel cells with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which produce electricity to power orbiter systems during flight and also water as a byproduct.

NASA will update processing work and the weather forecast and discuss the mission's payload during a news briefing scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Participants are expected to include Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA test director, Joe Delai, the mission's payload manager, and Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer.

You can watch the briefing live here by clicking the NASA TV still image at right.

Discovery's seven astronauts, led by three-time shuttle flyer Rick Sturckow, are scheduled to fly a 13-day mission to deliver more than 15,000 pounds of supplies and equipment that will allow the station to sustain a crew of six.

The shuttle crew will also replace an ammonia tank to refresh the station's cooling system, and introduce astronaut Nicole Stott as a new station flight engineer.

She'll replace Tim Kopra, who will fly home on Discovery.

The crew has shifted its sleeping schedule to prepare for the early morning launch, waking around 3 p.m. and going to bed around 7 a.m.

Sturckow and pilot Kevin Ford planned to practice shuttle landings this evening in a Gulfstream jet modified to simulate the shuttle's handling on descent. Other crew members continued to review flight plans.

You can read more about the mission - the 128th shuttle flight - in this NASA press kit.

Or, for a quicker read, take a look at this official mission summary.

We'll provide updates here throughout the countdown and mission.

Click here if you'd like to receive launch day text message updates on your phone.

IMAGE NOTE: On Aug. 4, space shuttle Discovery, installed on the mobile launcher platform atop the crawler-transporter, moved out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to Launch Pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So wait-- Is Discovery launching this Tuesday? Or is it Endeavour? ;) (3rd paragraph from the top)