Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Discovery's countdown on track and forecast is favorable

Discovery's countdown is proceeding smoothly toward a planned 4:50 p.m. Thursday launch, and the weather forecast remains excellent.

NASA Test Director Steve Payne said one minor technical issue has cropped up with a slight internal leak from a regulator tied to on-orbit thrusters, but it shouldn't impact the launch

"We've seen this condition before, and it's well within acceptable limits, and we're going to accept it for flight," he said.

The forecast remains 80-percent "go" for launch on Thursday, with chances of low clouds and showers increasing slightly through Saturday. Check out the official forecast here.

The forecast is poor at two emergency abort landing sites in California and New Mexico, but Payne said those don't need to be "green" for the launch to proceed. 

Launch pad 39A has been cleared in preparation for this afternoon's loading of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the fuel cells aboard that will power Discovery's electrical systems during flight. That work is expected to be wrapped up around 6 p.m.

The mission's five-man, one-woman crew is reviewing procedures for strapping into the shuttle as they plan to around 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Commander Steve Lindsey and pilot Eric Boe also plan to practice landings in a Gulfstream II jet modified to handle like an orbiter on descent.

IMAGE: A U.S. Coast Guard boat patrolled near shuttle Discovery and launch pad 39A this morning at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Michael R. Brown, Florida Today.