Thursday, August 20, 2009

Live: Shuttle, crew prepping for Tuesday launch

Seven Discovery astronauts have a couple more hours to sleep before getting started on their first full day of pre-launch preparations at Kennedy Space Center.

The crew arrived at KSC on Wednesday evening (left) and is set to launch at 1:36 a.m. Tuesday on a 13-day supply mission to the International Space Station.

Click here to see NASA's announcement of local road, bridge, waterway and airspace closures starting Monday evening.

The astronauts have shifted their sleep cycles to prepare for the early morning launch and mission timeline, and plan to wake up and eat breakfast around 3 p.m.

Their day includes reviews of mission tasks, which feature the transfer of more than 15,000 pounds of equipment and supplies from a giant "moving van" that will be removed from Discovery's payload bay and temporarily attached to the station.

Three spacewalks are also scheduled, in part to replace a large ammonia tank that is part of the station's cooling system.

Some crew members today will also check the fits of the orange partial-pressure suits they'll wear during launch and the shuttle's re-entry through Earth's atmosphere.

In the evening, Discovery mission commander Rick Sturckow and pilot Kevin Ford will practice landings in a Shuttle Training Aircraft, the same kind of modified Gulfstream II jet that flew the crew to KSC on Wednesday.

They'll be "unsuited," that is, not wearing those orange launch-and-entry suits.

Meanwhile, at launch pad 39A, technicians are closing access doors to the rear portion of the orbiter, and eight tankers will fill pad storage tanks with liquid hydrogen fuel.

The shuttle's external tank on Monday afternoon will be filled with more than 390,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen, at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, plus another 145,000 gallons of liquid oxygen at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit.

Around 5 p.m. today, the pad will be cleared of non-essential personnel for a hazardous operation - the initial pressurization of 24 spherical tanks that hold gasses that push propellants into the orbiter's propulsion systems.

All KSC employees received notice about the roughly 13-hour procedure, warning that the vessels "can explode without warning at normal operating pressures."

NASA will host the mission's first pre-launch briefing at 10 a.m. Friday, which will update progress preparing the shuttle and the weather outlook.

You can watch the briefing live here by clicking on the NASA TV still image in the right column of this page.

The countdown will officially begin at 11 p.m. Friday at T minus 43 hours. Seven holds are built in to the countdown, ranging from 10 minutes to more than 13 hours.

IMAGE NOTE: The astronauts for space shuttle Discovery's STS-128 mission posed for a group portrait following their arrival at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility at 6:34 p.m. EDT Wednesday in a NASA Shuttle Training Aircraft. From left are Mission Specialists Nicole Stott who will remain on the International Space Station as flight engineer for Expedition 20, Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang of the European Space Agency, John "Danny" Olivas, Jose Hernandez, and Patrick Forrester; Pilot Kevin Ford; and Commander Rick Sturckow. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


Anonymous said...

6th paragraph from the bottom typo. The second Liquid Hydrogen should be liquid Oxygen

James Dean said...

Thanks for catching the typo, which I've corrected.