Storms Force NASA to Aim for Wednesday Shuttle Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA will take another shot at launching the space shuttle Discovery on Wednesday after unexpected thunderstorms foiled an attempted liftoff earlier today.
Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew are now slated to blast off at 1:10 a.m. EDT (0510 GMT) to begin a 13-day trek to the International Space Station. The astronauts were already aboard the shuttle when NASA called off their launch early this morning.
Thunderstorms, rain and lightning were all concerns at different times during the attempted launch.
?Bad luck, but not too disappointed,? said Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, a Discovery mission specialist, in a Twitter update. ?Try again tomorrow!?
Fuglesang, who represents the European Space Agency, has been posting Twitter updates in English and Swedish under the moniker @CFuglesang during his mission training to reach out to the Swedish public. Likewise, his fellow crewmate Jose Hernandez of NASA is also ?tweeting? in English and Spanish as @Astro_Jose. His first post after the delayed launch was also optimistic for Wednesday?s launch chances.
Discovery has a 70 percent chance of good weather at launch time Wednesday morning, as well as for fueling later this afternoon, said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett of the 45th Weather Squadron that watches over shuttle flight weather for NASA. Engineers plan to begin fueling Discovery?s 15-story external tank at about 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT).
?I think we?re still going to have similar challenges,? Barrett told SPACE.com.
Discovery had an encouraging 80 percent chance of good conditions before thunderstorms rolled in to spoil Tuesday?s launch attempt. Barrett told SPACE.com after the scrubbed launch try that some of the same weather patterns that led up to the storm delay today could arise for Wednesday?s attempted liftoff.
Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Rick Sturckow, Discovery?s six-man, one-woman crew plans to deliver a cargo pod packed with new science gear and supplies to the space station, as well as a new treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert.
Colbert tried to get a new space station room named after him earlier this year by urging fans of his Comedy Central show ?The Colbert Report? to vote for him in an online NASA poll.? NASA ultimately chose the name Tranquility, after first moon base set up by astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, but dubbed the space station?s new treadmill after Colbert as a consolation prize.
The treadmill is known as COLBERT for short, but its full NASA name is the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. NASA invited Colbert to watch Discovery?s launch but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send NASA a video message that once more lamented his loss of the Tranquility module?s naming rights.
?You named the node ?Tranquility.? Yeah, that?ll scare the aliens. They?re not going to mess with Earth now! We might get all relaxed at them,?? Colbert said in the video. ?But I was still honored to receive the traditional NASA consolation prize, a space treadmill.?
Three spacewalks are planned for Discovery?s mission to replace experiments outside the space station and replace a massive cooling system tank that weighs as much as a small car.
Let to ride to space aboard Discovery with Fuglesang and Hernandez are shuttle commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Danny Olivas and Nicole Stott. Stott will replace NASA astronaut Tim Kopra as part of the space station?s six-person crew. She is due to return to Earth in November, while Kopra - who has lived aboard the space station for more than a month - come home on Discovery.
NASA has until the end of August to launch Discovery before running into potential space traffic conflicts with Japan?s first unmanned cargo ship and a Russian crew-carrying Soyuz spacecraft, both of which are due to launch toward the station in September.
If Discovery does not liftoff by Aug. 30, NASA may have to stand down to wait out the September flights, delaying its own mission to Oct. 17, mission managers have said.
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SPACE.com is providing complete coverage of Discovery's STS-128 mission to the International Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Click here for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV. Live launch coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET (0000 Aug. 26 GMT).
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