Monday, August 24, 2009

Live At KSC: NASA Prepares To Unveil Discovery

NASA is stepping through the final full day of the countdown to launch of Discovery as engineers prepare to unveil the shuttle at its Kennedy Space Center launch pad on the eve of its flight to the International Space Station.

Discovery and seven astronauts remain scheduled for liftoff from pad 39A at 1:36 a.m. Tuesday -- the middle of a 10-minute window to put the shuttle on course for a rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

The Rotating Service Structure at the oceanside complex is to be backed away from the 18-story spaceship around 5 a.m., and you can watch it live here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage of the RSS rollback. Be sure to refresh this page for countdown updates.

The weather forecast for launch is great, but NASA could be stopped in its tracks by seasonal afternoon thunderstorms.

There is a 40 percent chance that thunderstorms that roll through central Florida like clockwork in the summer might produce lightning within five miles of the launch pad at 4 p.m. -- the time NASA is scheduled to begin filling the shuttle's external tank with 500,000 gallons of supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

NASA safety rules would prohibit propellant-loading operations in that case. NASA Launch Director Pete Nickolenko said engineers would need to start the fuel-loading operation by 7 p.m. in order to be in position to make a launch attempt early Tuesday.

NASA TV commentary of the tanking operation will be broadcast live here in The Flame Trench beginning at 4 p.m. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

You can check out the meteorological details in this Official Forecast from the Air Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron. The wing provides tracking, range safety and weather forecasting services for all launches from KSC and nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Air Force is warning mariners and aviators to steer clear of a launch hazard area off the coast of Cape Canaveral and restricted airspace around KSC between 11 p.m. tonight and 2:45 a.m.

Check out a map of the Launch Hazard Area.

Click HERE for a map showing the restricted airspace around KSC.

Violators can be fined up to $250,000 and jailed for up to six months.

Discovery mission commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow and his crew will wake up about 3 p.m. and the start suiting up in partial-pressure launch-and-entry suits at about 9:16 p.m. The astronauts will depart crew quarters and head to the launch pad about 9:46 p.m.

NASA TV coverage of the countdown and launch will be broadcast live on Florida Today home page starting at 10 p.m.

Go to The Flame Trench for up-to-the-minute countdown status reports.

You can also sign up for cell phone text alerts HERE.

Check the Florida Today home page for live Discovery countdown and launch broadcast from our Kennedy Space Center News Bureau beginning at midnight.

Ken Koby of The Boeing Co. will join us at midnight to talk about the shuttle's prime payload -- an Italian-built cargo carrier that will haul up 7.5 tons of supplies and equipment critical to supporting the station's newly expanding staff of six astronauts.

Coming up next at 12:30 p.m. will be Robert Pearlman, editor of, who will talk about some fascinating items the astronauts are taking up on the shuttle and bringing back to Earth.

Among them: Buzz Lightyear, who will be setting a record for the longest mission an "astronaut" ever has carried out in low Earth orbit. We'll also learn about a flaw in the crew patch for the mission that has inadvertently generated collector's items that are selling for $100 a pop on Ebay.

Then at 1 p.m., we'll have George Torres of ATK, the company that manufactures solid rocket boosters for shuttles as well as NASA's planned Ares I rocket. He'll bring us up to date on two big program milestones: the assembly of the world's largest rocket, the Ares I-X, which is scheduled for launch Oct. 31 from pad 39B. And the first test-firing of an Ares I first stage -- a five-segment solid rocket booster -- scheduled for this coming Thursday.

The Discovery crew also includes pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Jose Hernandez, Nicole Stott and Christer Fuglesang of the European Space Agency.

Check out the basics of their STS-128 flight in this Official NASA Mission Summary.

For a more detailed look at the mission, check out the Official NASA Press Kit.

The timing of major mission milestones are in this first revision -- Rev A -- of the STS-128 NASA TV Schedule

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please let it go the first time.