Launch Date Expected for NASA’s Next Shuttle Mission

Shuttle Discovery Treks to Launch Pad for Next Mission
The space shuttle Discovery is settled on its Launch Pad 39B for launch of mission STS-116. Work crews hauled the orbiter and its launch stack to Pad 39B on Nov. 9, 2006 for a Dec. 7 launch. (Image credit: NASA/Amanda Miller.)

NASA's top space shuttle managers areexpected to set a firm launch date for the Discovery orbiter and itsseven-astronaut crew today after a two-day meeting at the agency's Florida spaceport.

Mission managers have been targeting Dec. 7as the earliest possible date to launch Discovery's STS-116 spaceflight tocontinue assembly of the International SpaceStation (ISS). The mission's launch window currently stretches through Dec. 17.

"Everythingat this point is proceeding really well for the Flight Readiness Review," NASAspokesperson Jessica Rye told of the two-day meeting underwayat the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. "There are noissues at this point that would prohibit us from launching in the Decemberwindow."

NASAmanagers are expected to hold a press briefing following today's flightreadiness review discussions beginning no earlier than 3:00 p.m. EST (2100GMT). [Click hereto watch the press briefing live via's NASA TV feed.]

Discoveryis currently slated to launch no earlier than 9:35:42 p.m. EST (0235:42 Dec. 8GMT) on Dec. 7 in NASA's first night liftoff since the 2003 Columbia accident. Ifshuttle managers stick to that plan, the Discovery's astronautcrew will arrive at KSC on Dec. 3 to prepare for the upcoming space shot.

Commandedby shuttle flight veteran MarkPolansky, Discovery's STS-116 astronauts plan to ferry a newcrewmember to the ISS, as well as install a new pieceof the station's main truss and rewirethe outpost's power system.

The 12-daymission is currently expected to return to Earth on Dec. 19.

You areinvited to follow NASA's post flight readiness review briefing at 3:00 p.m. EST via'sNASATV feed, which is available by clickinghere.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.