Wednesday, February 25, 2009

March 12 set as Discovery target Launch Date

Space shuttle program managers late today announced that they have moved to select March 12 as a target launch date, and that a flight readiness review next week will formalize that date.

Managers stated today that the change out of the three gaseous hydrogen [GH2] flow valves located in the engine section of Discovery has gone well. Following a few tests, managers will meet again on March 4th to formalize a new launch date or press on for a March 12 launch.

A lift-off of Discovery on Thursday, March 12th, would see her solid rocket boosters ignite at 8:54 pm EDT [daylight savings time or EDT begins on March 8].

Once in space, Discovery would steer for a docking with the international space station on March 14.

Now this is the big picture... Discovery has to launch prior to March 14th due to the Russian launch of the Expedition 19 crew to the station on March 29th. Due to the full slate of objectives during the shuttle's STS-119 mission, Discovery has to install a new set of solar arrays and perform four planned spacewalks and undock before the arrival of Soyuz TMA on March 31st.

If launch cannot occur before March 14th, then the KSC launch team will stand down until April 7th, which is also undocking and landing day of the current Expedition 18 crew aboard a Soyuz-TMA. And, as the shuttle team states, if Discovery flys in April instead of March, the mid-May Hubble servicing flight will be delayed two weeks.

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