Monday, April 05, 2010

Discovery Lifts-off on Station Supply Flight

Discovery departs today on Station supply flight. (Atkeison)

The predawn launch of space shuttle Discovery today created a beautiful light show on America's Space Coast as it began a chase with her port-of-call, the International Space Station.

Discovery lifted-off from the Kennedy Space Center at 6:21:24 am EDT, this morning to begin a two week long mission to deliver supplies, cargo and a new ammonia tank to the orbital complex.

The predawn launch occurred fourteen minutes after the space station streaked high over the space center as a bright star traveling at 5 miles per second. Discovery then began her pursuit and the orbital race began.

Twenty minutes after the launch, the first rays of the sun began to illuminate the top of the smoke contrail left behind by the shuttle's twin rocket boosters. And, slowly as the night sky gave way to blue, a cobalt-blue smoke stack created interesting shapes as the winds shifted the smoke southward.

After reaching orbit, the crew began to setup their orbital home in space by unstowing laptop computers, stowing launch seats and launch suits, and opening the two massive payload bay doors.

Moments after the doors were open, the crew discovered that the ship's high gain Ku-band antenna would not deploy out. The crew uses the dish shaped antenna to send and receive data and video to the ground.

Mission Control south of Houston were continuing to work the problem as of midday today. The shuttle can safely fly a nominal flight without the use of the antenna, however television coverage will be sorely limited to controllers on the ground when the live scans of the shuttle's tiles are performed early on Tuesday.

Rocket booster plume dances across the Cape Sky. (Atkeison)

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