Friday, February 11, 2011

NASA Preps For Shuttle Launch Countdown

NASA aims to pick up launch countdown preparations at Kennedy Space Center today as managers and engineers meet in the first of two readiness reviews to be held in advance of the planned Feb. 24 launch of shuttle Discovery's 39th and final flight.

The 18-story shuttle and six astronauts remain scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at 4:50 p.m. Feb. 24 on a mission to deliver a permanent storage module to the International Space Station. The Italian-built Leonardo module will be fixed to the outside of the outpost during the 11-day flight. Landing at KSC's three-mile shuttle runway is slated for 12:36 p.m. March 7.

Technicians earlier today completed the installation and testing of small pyrotechnic devices that will be used to separate the shuttle from its mobile launcher platform, solid rocket boosters and external tank in flight. Tests also were completed on small explosives that would be used to deliberately destroy the boosters if the shuttle veered off course and threatened towns and cities surrounding the space center.

Preparations for a three-day countdown will get under way today in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center. The countdown is scheduled to pick up at 3 p.m. Feb. 21.

Shuttle program managers are meeting today at Kennedy Space Center for a traditional flight readiness review. An agency-level flight readiness review is slated for Feb. 18. NASA is expected to firm up the Feb. 24 target date at the conclusion of that review.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of shuttle Discovery at launch pad 39A as the sun rises over the Space Coast. You can also click the enlarged imaged to get an even bigger, more detailed view. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

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