Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Live: Discovery crew en route to KSC

Seven Discovery astronauts are en route to Kennedy Space Center in advance of their scheduled 1:36 a.m. Tuesday launch to the International Space Station.

Flying in a Shuttle Training Aircraft, a modified Gulfstream jet used to simulate shuttle landings, the crew is expected to arrive around 6:30 p.m.

The trip from Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Houston was moved up about an hour because of bad weather anticipated on the route.

You can track the flight's progress here.

And you can watch the crew's arrival and remarks from the tarmac here on The Flame Trench. Just click on the NASA TV image above or on the right side of the page to launch a viewer.

The crew is led by Rick "C.J." Sturckow, a 49-year-old Marine Corps colonel and veteran of three prior shuttle missions.

Kevin Ford, a 49-year-old Air Force colonel and shuttle rookie, is the mission's pilot.

Five mission specialists include:
++ Patrick Forrester, a 52-year-old retired U.S. Army colonel and veteran of one prior shuttle flight;
++ Jose Hernandez, a 47-year-old first-time spaceflyer who was born to a family of Mexican migrant farm workers;
++ Danny Olivas, a 43-year-old veteran of one spaceflight with a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and materials science;
++ Christer Fuglesang, a 52-year-old European Space Agency astronaut from Sweden who has flown in space once before; and
++ Nicole Stott, a 46-year-old former shuttle engineer at KSC who is making her first spaceflight.

Stott will replace U.S. Army Col. Tim Kopra, 45, as a space station flight engineer. Kopra, who flew to the station last month on Endeavour, will return home on Discovery.

In addition to making the crew exchange, Discovery will deliver more than 15,000 pounds of supplies to the station during a 13-day mission that includes three spacewalks.

The spacewalkers are Olivas, Stott and Fuglesang.

If Tuesday's launch schedule holds, the crew will wake up around 3 p.m. on Monday to prepare for liftoff. They'll don orange launch-and-entry spacesuits around 9 p.m. and arrive at launch pad 39A around 10:15 p.m.

Discovery's crew hatch would close at 11:15 p.m., a little more than two hours before liftoff.

The mission, dubbed STS-128, is the fourth shuttle flight this year and the first of seven remaining before NASA plans to retire the shuttle fleet late next year.

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