Monday, February 21, 2011

NASA Picks Up Shuttle Countdown

NASA picked up the countdown today to the planned launch Thursday of shuttle Discovery and a crew of six astronauts on the orbiter's 39th and final flight.

A staff of about 150 to 200 engineers were called to their stations in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center at 2:30 p.m. Countdown clocks started ticking backward from the T-Minus 43 hour mark at 3 p.m. There is about 27 hours of built-in hold time in the countdown -- time available to catch up on launch preparations or work any technical problems.

Liftoff is set for 4:50 p.m. Thursday -- the middle of a 10-minute opportunity to put Discovery and its crew on course for a rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station.

NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding told reporters earlier today that all work leading up to the countdown went smoothly.

Kathy Winters, the shuttle weather officer with the Air Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron, said there is an 80 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for flight on Thursday. A front will start crossing over the Florida peninsula the following day, raising the chances that low clouds could prevent a launch. There is a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather on Friday and a 60 percent chance on Saturday.

Discovery had been slated to launch in November but NASA delayed the mission to analyze and repair cracks found in foam insulation and underlying metal on the shuttle's 15-story external tank.

The astronauts aim to deliver a modified Italian cargo carrier that will serve as a permanent storage facility at the outpost.

No comments: