The weather looks promising for NASA?s planned predawn Tuesday launch of the space shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts bound for the International Space Station.
NASA test director Steve Payne said Discovery currently has a 70 percent chance of good weather for launching spaceward Tuesday at 1:36 a.m. EDT (0536 GMT) and lighting up the dark morning sky over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
?It should be a spectacular launch,? Payne said today in a mission briefing at the spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Fla. ?I?m hoping we put on a good show for you.?
Of the seven remaining shuttle missions before NASA retires is shuttle fleet in 2010 or 2011, Discovery?s is currently the last planned night launch, though schedules can change, Payne added.
The only issue for the upcoming launch is ongoing analysis of a shuttle power controller that had to be replaced on Discovery, but Payne said engineers are confident they will complete the work in time for liftoff.
NASA will begin counting down toward the Tuesday launch tonight at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 Aug. 22 GMT).
Resupplying space station
Discovery is poised to fly a 13-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver about 15,200 pounds (6,894 kg) of new science gear, supplies and spare parts for the orbiting laboratory. Three spacewalks are planned for maintenance work, including replacing a massive ammonia cooling system tank that weighs as much as a small car.
The astronauts are also delivering a new treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert, who tried to have a new station module named after him earlier this year, but ended up with the exercise gear instead.
Veteran NASA astronaut Rick Sturckow will command Discovery?s flight. He leads a six-man, one-woman crew that includes first-time flyer Nicole Stott. Stott is flying to the space station to replace fellow NASA astronaut Tim Kopra as a member of the station?s six-person crew.
Kopra arrived last month on the shuttle Endeavour and will return home with Discovery?s crew. Stott is slated to return to Earth in November on the next shuttle flight.
NASA has until Aug. 30 to launch Discovery?s STS-128 mission before standing down until Oct. 17 to avoid space traffic conflicts at the station with Russian spacecraft and Japan?s first unmanned cargo ship. That Japanese spacecraft, the H-2 Transfer Vehicle, is due to launch Sept. 10.
A Russian cargo ship is scheduled to leave the station mid-September and a Soyuz spacecraft is set to launch toward the station on Sept. 30.
Payne said Discovery has four chances to lift off during its five-day launch widow, with fair weather expected.
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