Monday, October 25, 2010

NASA Officially sets Discovery's Launch Date

Discovery sits a top launch pad 39A this afternoon. (NASA)

NASA's space shuttle managers met today and selected November 1 as the official launch date for to begin Discovery's twelve day flight to earth's orbital outpost in space.

The routine meeting allowed officials to review any issues related to both the spacecraft and the payloads tucked inside NASA's oldest orbiter.

"We're in great shape out at the pad," NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach stated this afternoon.

One such issue was fixed over the weekend as technicians at the Kennedy Space Center changed out two seals to help fix a fuel leak in the tail section of Discovery.

A very hazardous fuel known as Mono methyl hydrazine, which powers the shuttle's small maneuvering engines, was discovered leaking from a seal on the fuel line in the ship right side pod which sits under the vertical stabilizer. The primary and secondary seals were changed out on Saturday, and the fuel was reloaded on Sunday. Leak tests were then ran later in the day.

Meanwhile, at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston, the six member flight crew went into quarantine today as they prepare to live in a clean enviroment to lessen the chances of becoming sick.

On Thursday,
Discovery's all veteran crew of commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Timothy Kopra, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott and Alvin Drew will arrive in Florida for launch.

An unofficial seventh member of the crew known as R2, a robo-naut which will be attached to the space station to perform tasks, is already inside Discovery awaiting it's multiyear stay aboard the outpost.

The launch countdown will begin at 3PM EDT on Friday, counting down to the target launch time of 4:40:26 pm.

If Discovery cannot launch on time, her launch window is short -- one week.

NASA needs to launch the 26 year-old spacecraft before November 7 or risk keeping her on earth until the opening days of December. This is due to sun angles on the station through out November which can cause instruments to over heat.

Two days after launch, Discovery will arrive at the station to begin eight days of docked operations to resupply with food, fuel and hardware; and add the final U.S. segment to the growing city in space.

Discovery will deliver the final American segment known as the Permanent Multipurpose Module, a bus sized cylindrical segment which will be used for storage. It will help free up more space inside the station's working and living segments for the crew of six.

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