Space Shuttle Discovery on Track for Tuesday Launch
The space shuttle Discovery sits poised for an Aug. 25, 2009 launch atop Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

NASA?s space shuttle Discovery is on track for a planned Tuesday launch toward the International Space Station, mission managers said Saturday.

The shuttle and its seven-astronaut crew are nearly ready for their predawn launch Tuesday at 1:36 a.m. EDT (0536 GMT) from NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said NASA test director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.

?All of our vehicle systems are in good shape. Our countdown work is progressing well,? Blackwell-Thompson said today in a morning status briefing. ?Discovery and her launch team are ready to go.?

NASA began counting down toward the launch late Friday and expects good weather for Discovery?s liftoff. Current forecasts predict a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for blast off. The potential for nearby lightning during fueling and isolated thunderstorms around launch time are the only concerns.

?Weather should be pretty good, overall, for launch,? said Kathy Winters, NASA?s shuttle weather officer.

The moon will set late Monday night, setting the stage for what promises to be a beautiful launch, she added.

?The skies are going to be completely dark at launch time,? Winters said. ?So that?s going to make for a very impressive launch if the clouds all get out of here.?

Commanded by veteran spaceflyer Rick Sturckow, Discovery?s six-man, one-woman crew is set to fly a 13-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver a cargo pod packed with about 15,200 pounds (6,894 kg) of new science gear, supplies and a treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert.

Three spacewalks are planned for the mission.

Discovery is also ferrying NASA astronaut Nicole Stott to the space station, where she will replace astronaut Tim Kopra as a member of the outpost?s six-person crew.

Kopra has lived aboard the station since mid-July and will return home on Discovery. Stott expects to spend at least three months aboard the station and return home during a planned November shuttle mission.

Blackwell-Thompson told reporters that engineers have completed testing a new power controller that was installed aboard Discovery after an older one failed. An analysis of the failed component will be presented to NASA managers during a Sunday meeting as one of the last issues to be settled before launch.

?From a work perspective, that work is behind us,? Blackwell-Thompson said.

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SPACE.com will provide complete coverage of Discovery's STS-128 mission to the International Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik and Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz. Click here for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.