The space shuttle Discovery will stay on its launch pad and will not be threatened by Hurricane Dennis, which is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, NASA officials said Friday.
"Because the storm has ended its eastward drift and the primary track is slightly more to the west, it was decided this morning that Discovery will not be rolled back from the launch pad," a NASA statement said today.
Mission managers met Thursday to discuss whether to prepare the shuttle for a potential rollback to its massive, 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. There was some concern that winds could rise past 40 knots, exceeding conditions for a rollback, though NASA officials said it was unlikely.
"The current forecast shows only a slight chance of more than 40 knot winds effecting KSC on Saturday," NASA officials reported Thursday.
But by Friday, those concerns eased and KSC officials said the mission was still on target for a July 13 launch. NASA hopes to launch Discovery and its seven-astronaut STS-114 crew at about 3:51 p.m. EDT (1951 GMT) on Wednesday.
Discovery is the first space shuttle set to fly since the 2003 loss of the STS-107 astronauts aboard the Columbia orbiter, which broke apart during reentry after sustaining wing damage from launch debris at liftoff.
The STS-114 mission is the first of two test flights to evaluate shuttle launch system modifications to prevent such damage from occuring, as well as orbital tools and procedures for orbiter inspection. The 12-day mission will also deliver fresh supplies, equipment and replacement parts to the two astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
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