Monday, April 05, 2010

Discovery Fueled For Early-Morning Launch At Kennedy Space Center

Shuttle Discovery is gassed up and ready to go as countdown clocks at Kennedy Space Center continue to click toward an early-morning launch for seven astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station.

The 18-story shuttle and its crew remain scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at 6:21 a.m., the middle of a 10-minute opportunity to put Discovery and its astronauts on course for a two-day trip to the station.

The weather forecast for launch remains good. Air Force Shuttle Launch Weather Officer Kathy Winters issued a forecast calling for an 80 percent chance that conditions will be acceptable for launch. The only concern is the slight chance of early morning fog that could create a visibility problem.

Launch rules call for range safety officers to be able to maintain a clear view of the shuttle during the critical early portions of flight. The mission commander also must be able to see the shuttle runway on final approach if a systems failure were to prompt an unprecedented emergency landing attempt.

NASA engineers in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center started fueling the shuttle's external tank about 9:28 p.m. Sunday, or about a half-hour later than scheduled. A fuel-cell voltage spike prompted NASA to send a crew out to the pad to check the shuttle's cockpit lightning configuration, which was apparently the source of the problem. The shuttle's three fuel cells generate electricity to power all spaceship systems, including cockpit lights.

More than a half-million gallons of supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen were loaded into the 15-story external tank during a three-hour propellant-loading operation. No significant problems were reported during the operation.

You can join our live interactive blog coverage by clicking on the CoverItLive console above. We also will be broadcasting live on and beginning at 5 a.m. My colleague Grayson Kamm, of WTSP-TV Tampa Channel 10, and I will host a live broadcast that will include appearances by former NASA astronaut Mike Bloomfield, NASA astronaut Michael Foale and Robert Pearlman, editor of It should be fun!

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