Monday, November 01, 2010

NASA To Load Fuel Cells For Discovery's Final Flight

NASA contractor technicians are preparing to load supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into Discovery's fuel-cell system as countdown clocks tick toward the 3:52 p.m. launch of that orbiter's final flight.

Discovery and six astronauts are slated to blast off from launch pad 39A in the middle of a 10-minute opportunity to put the shuttle on course for a rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

The weather for Wednesday looks good. There's a 70 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for flight. But a slip to Thursday would bring less favorable weather. A cold front moving through the state that day is expected to bring low-level clouds, rain showers and perhaps thunderstorms. As a result, the probability of KSC weather prohibiting launch increased to 60 in an Air Force 45th Space Wing forecast issued today.

The front will move through Central Florida Thursday evening, and Friday, there's only a 30 percent chance bad weather would force a delay.

The launch pad was cleared of all essential personnel this morning for two hazardous operations. Engineers are testing the system of small explosives used to separate the orbiter from its launcher platform, solid rocket boosters and external tank during flight as well as the vehicle's flight termination system.

The main event will be the loading of chemical reactants into the shuttle's fuel cell system. The fuel cells combine liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to generate electricity to run all spaceship systems. Drinking water is a byproduct.

The loading operation is expected to be complete around 5:30 p.m. tonight.

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