Friday, March 26, 2010

Discovery Firmly Targeted for April 5 Launch

NASA's mission management team today firmly targeted a launch date for space shuttle Discovery -- Monday, April 5.

A day long meeting by NASA's top managers reviewed every issue brought to the table, from the Reaction Control System Helium Isolation Valve issue to protruding ceramic inserts which were found on the last shuttle flight.

In the end, every issue was cleared and at 4:50 pm EDT today, management elected to go fly on Easter Monday.

Launch time is planned for the middle of a ten-minute window, at 6:21:19 am EDT -- a half-hour prior to sunrise.

Managers meet with several leaders of the separate departs such as the orbiter, the external tank, the solid rocket boosters and space station to receive a detailed brief on any outstanding technical issues which needed to be addressed.

The one which has been in the forefront is the RCS helium regulators and the leak associated with a valve in the starboard Orbital Maneuvering System pod on Discovery.

Engineers discussed with management the recent testing performed, and stated that they still do not understand the RCS valve issue.

Managers after the meeting stated that Discovery could still fly with the valve in the open position, and that "We are ready to go fly".

Managers also looked at the reinforced carbon carbon blanket's which cover the nose cap and wing leading edges to ensure they are in positive shape.

NASA stated today from the meeting's location here at the Kennedy Space Center, "Thermograpy scans have been performed on shuttle Discovery's RCC and there are no concerns for STS-131."

Once on orbit, Discovery's crew of seven will steer their ship upon the ocean of space toward their port-of-call, the International Space Station.

At the helm of NASA's twenty-five year-old vessel will be
mission commander Alan Poindexter, the seven member crew (above) includes pilot James Dutton, Jr, and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Clayton Anderson.

Upcoming next week, the crew will arrive at Kennedy on Thursday morning at about 7AM to prepare for launch a few days later. And, the launch countdown is set to pick-up on Friday morning.

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