Friday, April 02, 2010

Countdown to Monday shuttle launch under way at KSC

Countdown clocks at Kennedy Space Center are ticking toward Discovery's 6:21 a.m. Monday launch on a 13-day International Space Station resupply mission.

The countdown officially began on schedule at 3 a.m.

NASA will host a countdown status briefing at 10 a.m. featuring Steve Payne, NASA test director, Joe Delai, STS-131 payload manager and Kathy Winters, the shuttle weather officer.

You can launch a video player and watch it live by clicking on the NASA TV box at right.

Launch preparations today include checking Discovery's avionics and testing backup flight systems, software and navigational systems.

Preparations for loading liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into tanks serving the orbiter's three fuel cells will start around 6 p.m., with the countdown's first of seven built-in holds following at 7 p.m.

Launch pad 39A will be cleared of nonessential personnel for loading of the cryogenic reactants at 11 p.m., when the countdown resumes. The fuel cells will provide electric power throughout Discovery's flight.

The forecast is excellent, with perfect conditions during Sunday evening fueling operations and an 80 percent chance of good weather for launch.

Click here for the official forecast for the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron.

Discovery's crew of seven, led by 48-year-old Navy Capt. Alan Poindexter, flew into KSC Thursday and took at last look at a large cargo module and other hardware in the orbiter's payload bay before its doors were closed for flight.

Check out this NASA mission summary and press kit for more background on the mission -- one of four remaining before NASA plans to retire the shuttle program.

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