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STS-116 Mission Updates: Part 1

Crew Performs UnscheduledInspection of Discovery Wing

11  December 20068:10 p.m. EST

HOUSTON  – Williams' seat liner transfer has been interrupted by anunscheduled inspection of Discovery's wing leading edge by the station'srobotic arm. The last-minute procedure was initiated to examine an impact eventthat was recorded by sensors at about 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT), while the crewwas still asleep. The results from the inspection have not been announced yet.

- KerThan

 

Hatches Opened Between ISSand Discovery

11  December 20066:54 p.m. EST

HOUSTON  – Hatch opening hasoccurred between the International Space Station (ISS) and shuttle Discovery,and the STS-116 crew is entering the orbital laboratory, where they will spendthe next week as they go about their operations.

STS-116mission specialist Sunita Williams will transfer her Soyuz spacecraft seatliner later tonight to the ISS, officially relieving German European SpaceAgency astronaut Thomas Reiter as flight engineer of Expedition 14. Williamswill become the third woman to serve as part of an Expedition crew. She ispreceded by Susan Helms of Expedition 2 and Peggy Whitson of Expedition 5.

- KerThan

Discovery Closes in onInternational Space Station

11  December 20064:56 p.m. EST

HOUSTON  – The shuttleDiscovery is less than 80 feet from the berthing port on the InternationalSpace Station's Destiny module, and closing in at a slow 1/10th of afoot per second. Contact should occur in about 15 minutes.

- KerThan

Discovery Does a Backflip

11  December 20064:08 p.m. EST

HOUSTON  – STS-116 commanderMark Polansky is guiding the shuttle Discovery through a nose-over-tailbackflip to allow the three-member Expedition 14 crew aboard the InternationalSpace Station  to snap photos of heat shields on the craft's belly.

Theso-called rendezvous pitch maneuver occurred while the two spacecraft wereabout 600 feet apart and floating about 220 miles above the South PacificOcean.

After theflip, Polansky will steer Discovery to about 300 feet in front of the ISS toline it up with the docking port on the station's U.S. Destiny module.

- KerThan

Discovery TI Burn Complete

11  December 20062:31 p.m. EST

HOUSTON  – STS-116 commanderMark Polansky has successfully performed a Terminal Initiation (TI) engine burnto put Discovery on a rendezvous path with the International Space Station(ISS).

"It's not everyday youget to do an orbital rendezvous," astronaut Kevin Ford said in missioncontrol.

"I'll echo that,"Polansky replied.

Theorbiter was above the southern Pacific Oceanwhen the burn occurred.

Discoveryis on track for a 5:05 p.m. EST (2205 GMT) docking with the ISS. Beforebringing the orbiter to rest at the docking port of the ISS Destiny module,Polansky will guide the craft through a back-flip maneuver so the station'sExpedition 14 crew can take pictures of heat shields on Discovery's underside.

- KerThan

Discovery Crew Awake,Prepare for Busy Day

11  December 2006,9:45 a.m. EST

HOUSTON  – Discovery's sevenare awake and preparing for a busy day ahead of them that includes the dockingof the orbiter with the International Space Station (ISS) and the officialtransfer of STS-116 mission specialist Sunita "Suni" Williams to thecrew of Expedition 14.

"Good morning Discovery,and a special good morning to Suni," NASA astronaut and spacecraftcommunicator Shannon Lucid said from ground control. "You need to rise andshine because today is the day that you say goodbye shuttle and hello station."

"Thanks, I can't wait to see my new home," Williams said.

Beforedocking, however, Discovery will first perform an engine burn at 2:28 p.m. EST(1928 GMT) that will put the shuttle on its rendezvous path with the ISS.

At around4:05 p.m. EST (2105 GMT) STS-116 commander Mark Polansky will maneuverDiscovery to a position about 600 feet directly below the orbital laboratory,after which he will guides orbiter through a 360-degree backflip so the ISScrew can photograph the heat shields on the craft's belly for damage. Discoveryis scheduled to dock at the station at 5:05 p.m. EST (2205 GMT).

William'swill transfer her Soyuz seat liner to the ISS at around 8 p.m. EST (0100 Dec.12 GMT) and in so doing will officially relieve German astronaut Thomas Reiteras flight engineer of Expedition 14. After the transfer, the other STS-116crewmembers will begin preparations for the mission's first spacewalk tomorrowto install a new $11 million ISS component.

- KerThan

Shuttle Heat ShieldInspection Ahead for Discovery Astronauts

10 December 2006 11:00a.m. EST

The seven astronauts aboardNASA’s space shuttleDiscovery will spend their first full day in orbit inspecting theirvehicle’s vital heat shield.

[Click herefor a video description of theSTS-116 crew’s heat shield inspection task].

Discovery’s STS-116crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Mark Polansky,awoke at 10:47 a.m. EST (1547 GMT) to the song “Here Comes the Sun”by the Beatles. The astronauts launchedinto space at Saturday night in NASA’s first evening liftoff in fouryears.

Using Discovery’s50-foot (15-meter) robotic arm and a sensor-laden extension boom, STS-116mission specialist Nicholas Patrick will scan the wing leading edges and nosecap for signs of damage to the sensitive reinforced carbon carbon (RCC) panels.

The survey is scheduled tobegin at about 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT) and conclude about five hours later.

Patrick and his crewmateswill also use cameras on Discovery’s robotic arm to survey theshuttle’s crew cabin and bulbous Orbital Maneuvering System pods oneither side of its tail for any damage as well.

Mission managers will hold a press briefing on today’s activitiesbeginning at 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 Dec. 11 GMT), which will be broadcast live on NASATV.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery’s STS-116 mission live on NASA TV. Readers cantune in using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

- Tariq Malik

 

Discovery's STS-116 Mission Begins

9  December 2006,9:10 p.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. – Discovery has reached orbit, and the seven STS-116 astronauts haveofficially embarked on their 12-day International Space Station conference.

A NASAPost Launch news conference is scheduled to begin at 9:45 p.m. EST (0245 Dec.10 GMT). Readers can tune in using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

- KerThan

Discovery Astronauts ReachOrbit

9  December 2006,8:57 p.m. EST

The STS-116 astronauts aboardthe space shuttle Discovery have discarded the 15-story external tank that fedthe orbiter’s nearly nine-minute launch into space.

With the tank jettisoned,Discovery is now in orbit.

You are invited to followDiscovery’s flight using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- TariqMalik

Shuttle Engines Shut Downas Planned

9  December 2006,8:57  p.m.  EST

The five engines boosting Discoveryand its external tank towards orbit have shut down as planned about eight and ahalf minutes into flight.

The spacecraft is flyingtowards its intended 122-mile high orbit, with the next major task is todiscard the shuttle’s external tank.

You are invited to followDiscovery’s flight using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- TariqMalik

Solid Rocket BoostersSeparate

9  December 2006,8:51  p.m.  EST

The twin solid rocketboosters assisting Discovery’s launch into space have separated asplanned from the shuttle’s external tank.

The reusable boosters aredesigned to separate about two minutes and three seconds into launch, fall backtoward the Atlantic Ocean and deployparachutes to cushion their landing. They are equipped with cameras to recordthe performance of Discovery’s external tank and any foam loss seenduring today’s ascent.

You are invited to followDiscovery’s flight using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- TariqMalik

Liftoff! Shuttle DiscoveryLaunches Spaceward

9  December 2006,8:48  p.m.  EST

Liftoff! NASA’s spaceshuttle Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew has cleared the launch pad atKennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It should take the shuttleabout 8 ½ minutes to reach orbit. The next major event will be theseparation of Discovery’s two solid rocket boosters just after twominutes into the flight.

You are invited to followDiscovery’s flight using SPACE.com’s NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- TariqMalik

Discovery ‘Go forLaunch’ 

9 December 2006, 8:38 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Shuttle Discovery has been cleared forlaunch from Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Centeron its 12-day mission to the International Space Station. The countdown hasjust picked up following the planned T-9 minute hold as final launchpreparations are rushed to completion.

The mission management teamhas been polled and all have reported back ‘Go for launch.’ Theseven STS-116 astronauts, led by mission commander Mark Polansky, are strappedinto their seats, running through their pre-launch checklists and are closelymonitoring their spacecraft systems for their ascent to orbit. CommanderPolansky reports that the crew is “looking forward to lighting up thenight sky.”

Launch time has been set for8:47:35 p.m. EST (0147:35 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launch window. Notechnical issues are being worked at this time.

Weather conditions are nowobserved and forecast ‘Go’ on all fronts with no constraints tolaunch, crosswinds at the Shuttle Landing Facility remain within acceptablelimits. The Eastern Range reports‘Clear for launch.’

Over the next nine minutes,the Orbiter’s access arm will be retracted, the hydraulic power system(APU) started, the liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks pressurized,Discovery’s internal flight computers will take control of the countdownand a booster steering test will be conducted. The three space shuttle mainengines will ignite at T-minus 6.6 seconds and the twin solid rockets boosterswill light at T-minus zero resulting in liftoff.

NASAwill broadcast Discovery’s launch countdown and planned liftoff on NASATV. You are invited to follow the countdown's progress using SPACE.com'sfeed, which is available by clickinghere.

- Roger Guillemette

 

Shuttle Discovery Readiedfor Launch 

9 December 2006, 8:17 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Shuttle Discovery is just 30 minutes away from liftoff on a mission to theInternational Space Station. The countdown clock is halted at the T-9 minutemark – the final planned, built-in hold remaining in the countdown.

Launch time has been set for 8:47:35p.m. EST (0147:35 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launch window.

No technical issues are beingworked at this time. Mission managers are polling members of the launch team toensure that all is in readiness with Discovery and crew, poised for launch fromthe Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39-B.

The seven STS-116 astronauts,led by mission commander Mark Polansky, are strapped into their seats, runningthrough their pre-launch checklists and are closely monitoring their spacecraftsystems for their ascent to orbit.

Weather conditions are nowobserved and forecast ‘Go’ on all fronts, the crosswinds at theShuttle Landing Facility remain within acceptable limits. The primaryTransoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site is Moron, Spain – weather conditions at both of theTAL sites in Spainare favorable.

This is the second launchattempt for Discovery – the first attempt on Thursday was scrubbed due tounacceptable weather conditions.

 

- Roger Guillemette

 

Shuttle Discovery’sHatch Sealed for Launch

9 December 2006, 7:35 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Technicians at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39-B have closed and sealedShuttle Discovery’s hatch in preparation for this evening’sscheduled launch on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

The countdown clock is haltedat the T-20 minute mark – a planned built-in hold. The Close Out crewhave buttoned-up the spacecraft and departed the launch pad.

Inside, the seven STS-116astronauts are strapped into their seats, running through their pre-launchchecklists and configuring the cockpit for the spacecraft’s ascent toorbit. Discovery’s hatch closure occurred at about 6:33 p.m. EDT (2333GMT).

Launch time remains set for8:47:35 p.m. EST (0147:35 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launch window – afinal adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9 minute hold to moreprecisely align with the space station's orbit.

There is very little chatteron the communications loops indicative of a smooth countdown to this point. Thelaunch team is not working any technical issues at this time.

Weather conditions haveturned mostly favorable, with the Launch Weather Officer predicting a 70%probability of acceptable conditions at launch time – although crosswindsat the Shuttle Landing Facility are being closely monitored. Moron,Spain – weatherconditions at both of the TAL sites in Spain are favorable.

This is the second launchattempt for Discovery – the first attempt on Thursday was scrubbed due tounacceptable weather conditions.

- Roger Guillemette

 

Weather Improves forDiscovery Launch

9 December 2006, 7:00 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Weather conditions have taken a dramatic turn-for-the-better at Florida’sKennedy Space Center and launch officials are becoming increasingly optimisticthat Shuttle Discovery will be cleared for launch tonight on a 12-day missionto the International Space Station.

Launch Weather Officer KathyWinters has just upgraded the official forecast to a 70% probability ofacceptable conditions at launch time – crosswinds at the Shuttle LandingFacility are being closely monitored but are predicted to be within allowablelimits.

The seven Discoveryastronauts are now strapped into their seats in preparation for thisevening’s launch attempt from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad39-B and the Orbiter’s hatch has been closed and sealed in anticipationof tonight’s launch attempt. A series of cabin leak checks and a finalalignment of the spacecraft’s guidance systems are now in progress.

Mission commander Mark Polansky, pilot Bill Oefelein and crewhave completed a series of communications checks to ensure that the astronautscan talk to flight controllers and each other during the spacecraft’sascent to orbit.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 8:47:35 p.m. EST (0147:35 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow – a final adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9minute hold to more precisely align with the space station's orbit.

The launch team is notworking any technical or vehicle issues at this time. The final inspection teamhas departed the launch pad and is making their report to the mission managers– no issues have been reported and only a minimal amount of frost isvisible on the launch pad.

- Roger Guillemette

 

Discovery AstronautsStrapped-In for Launch

9 December 2006, 6:10 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –The seven Discovery astronauts are now strapped into their seats in preparationfor this evening’s launch attempt from Kennedy Space Center’sLaunch Pad 39-B. Mission commander Mark Polansky, pilot Bill Oefelein and creware now performing a series of communications checks to ensure that theastronauts can talk to flight controllers and each other during thespacecraft’s ascent to orbit. Discovery’s hatch is scheduled forclosure at 6:32 p.m. EST (2332 GMT).

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow – a final adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9minute hold to more precisely align with the space station's orbit.

The official launch weatherforecast continues to call for only a 40% chance of acceptable conditions atlaunch time; however, NASA launch commentator Bruce Buckingham reports that thelow clouds and wind speeds are now “trending in a positivedirection.” Crosswinds at the Shuttle Landing Facility are the primaryconcern – at present, they are gusting close to allowable limits for areturn-to-launch-site emergency abort.

Discovery's external tank isfilled with a half-million gallons of super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquidoxygen. The vehicle is in "stable replenish" mode and its massivefuel tank will continue to be topped-off until launch time.

The launch team is notworking any technical or vehicle issues at this time; the final inspectionteam has departed the launch pad and will make their report to the missionmanagers. The two Solid Rocket Booster recovery ships have reportedon-station, about 140 miles off the Floridacoast, in preparation for launch.

- Roger Guillemette

 

Discovery Crew EntersSpacecraft

9 December 2006, 5:20 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Clad in their ‘Day-Glo’ orange launch and entry spacesuits, theseven-astronaut crew of Shuttle Discovery are boarding their spacecraft atKennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-B.

Led by veteran shuttlecommander Mark Polansky, one-by-one the astronauts will be positioned in theirseats on Discovery’s flight and mid-decks in preparation for their ascentto orbit. 

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow, weather permitting.

The launch team is notworking any technical issues; however, dynamic Florida weather conditions are againthreatening to prevent a launch attempt this evening. The official forecastcontinues to call for only a 40% probability of acceptable conditions forlaunch with low clouds and gusty winds predicted to be out of limits.

- Roger Guillemette

Discovery Astronauts Headto Launch Pad

9 December 2006, 5:00 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The seven Discovery astronauts have begun a20-minute ride in their silver ‘Astro Van’ toward Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39Bwhere their spacecraft stands poised for launch this afternoon. NASA TestDirector Jeff Spaulding has given his permission for the astronauts to enterthe spacecraft, indicating that all switches and systems in the cockpit areproperly configured for the crew.

The launch team is notworking any vehicle or technical issues; however, meteorologists continue toclosely conditions around Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.Latest weather conditions are observed ‘Go’; however, the LaunchWeather Officer’s official forecast calls for only a 40% of acceptableconditions at launch time.

The countdown has justresumed at the T-minus 3 hour mark and Discovery's external tank is now filledwith a half-million gallons of super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.The vehicle is in "stable replenish" mode and the massive fuel tankwill continue to be topped-off until launch time.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 GMT 10 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow, weather permitting.

- Roger Guillemette

Astronauts Suit Up for Launch
9 December 2006, 4:35 p.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL – As the closeout crew and the final inspection team arefinishing up their duties on launch pad 39B, the seven STS-116 astronauts havereceived a final weather briefing from the Ascent Flight Control Team in Houston and are nowsuiting up for tonight's planned liftoff. Missionspecialist Sunita Williams flexes her arms while in her suit for an audience onNASA TV.

Meteorologistsreport a cloud layer approaching Kennedy Space Centerfrom the ocean, possibly bringing with it low clouds that could affect launch.Scattered clouds are predicted for 3,500 feet and layered clouds at 6,000 feet.Crosswinds have slowed slightly down to 15 to 18 knots, which is nearly withinacceptable range for a night launch.

- KerThan

 

Shuttle Tanking Complete, Final Inspections Begin
9 December 2006, 3:50 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL – Tanking of Discovery'sexternal fuel tanks is complete and the order has been given for the finalinspection team and closeout crew to approach the launch pad. The former willsurvey the pad and the various shuttle components to ensure there are nohazards such as ice that could damage the spacecraft during launch, while thelatter will ready the pad for the seven STS-116 astronauts, who are scheduledto arrive in about an hour.

NASAwill broadcast Discovery’s launch countdown and planned liftoff on NASATV beginning at about 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT). You are invited to followthe countdown's progress using SPACE.com's feed, which is available by clickinghere.

- KerThan

 

Shuttle Tanking Nearly Complete
9 December 2006, 2:40 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL – Fueling of shuttleDiscovery's external fuel tanks is two-thirds complete and should be completedwithin the next hour or so. Tanking was delayed approximately two hours thismorning to accommodate a slower than expected burnoff of the fuel already inthe tanks.

Theseven STS-116 astronauts are scheduled to depart crew quarters for Launch Pad39B here at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 4:57 p.m. EST (2157 p.m. GMT), butthe event could be pushed back by about 15 minutes due to the fueling delay,NASA TV reports. A significant time cushion is still in place, however, andbarring any technical difficulties, liftoff is still scheduled for 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 Dec. 10 GMT).

Tonight'sweather outlook is still only 30 percent for Go. The primary concerns are lowclouds, showers, and high crosswinds that could interfere with the shuttle'sability to make an emergency return flight back to KSC, should such a maneuverbe required. The crosswind restriction for a night launch is 15 knots. Currentwind speeds range from 15 to 20 knots.

NASAwill broadcast Discovery’s launch countdown and planned liftoff on NASATV beginning at about 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT). You are invited to followthe countdown's progress using SPACE.com's feed, which is available by clickinghere.

- KerThan

 

 

Shuttle Fuel Tank Loading Set to Begin
9 December 2006, 12:42 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL – Fueling operations willbegin shortly for NASA’s space shuttle Discovery as pad crews and workersrace to catch up on delays to tonight’s planned launch.

"Wehaven't started tanking yet, we'll be doing that in in the next few minutes,but we are going to make an attempt tonight," NASA spokesperson BruceBuckingham said here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Fueling ofDiscovery’s external tank was originally slated to begin at about 10:52a.m. EST (1552 GMT).

Discoveryis slated to launch at about 8:47 p.m. EST (0147 Dec.10 GMT) tonight, thoughpoor weather and preparation delays afflicted the countdown.

Discoveryhas about a 40 percent chance of favorable launch weather today, NASA officialshave said.

NASAwill broadcast Discovery’s launch countdown and planned liftoff on NASATV beginning at about 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT). You are invited to followthe countdown's progress using SPACE.com's feed, which is available by clickinghere.

- KerThan

 

Shuttle Tanking PushedBack

9 December 2006, 11:10 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. – After a one-hour meeting, NASA launch managers havedecided to hold off on refueling the shuttle's external tanks. Originallyscheduled for 10:50 a.m. EST (0352 p.m. GMT), tanking has now been pushed backto 12:30 p.m. EST (0530 p.m. GMT). Another mission management team will be heldshortly before that time to determine whether a shuttle launch will beattempted tonight. If the answer is yes, tanking will proceed.

"We’re pressing onfor a launch, but we need to look at 12:30 p.m. to determine if we're close togetting into tanking or if we're still a ways off," said NASA spokespersonJessica Rye.

Tonight's weather outlook forlaunch remains the same, with a 40 percent chance that conditions will befavorable for shuttle liftoff.

- KerThan

Space Shuttle ShroudPulls Away from Discovery Orbiter

9 December 2006, 9:40 a.m. EST

Theprotective service structure covering NASA’s space shuttle Discovery ispulling away from the orbiter at its Pad 39B launch site at the Kennedy SpaceCenter (KSC).

Knownas the Rotating Service Structure, the 10-story gantry shields NASA shuttles fromthe elements at the launch pad and allows access to the orbiter’s payloadbay before flight.

NASAofficials told SPACE.com that first motion began at 9:31 a.m. EST (1431GMT), about 10 hours later than originally planned, as shuttle managers discusswhether to begin fueling Discovery for an 8:47 p.m. EST (0147 Dec. 10 GMT)launch tonight.

A bleakweather forecast, offering just a 30 percent chance of favorable flightconditions, has increased slightly to 40 percent. Among the top concerns arehigh winds and low clouds over a nearby shuttle landing strip, which must beavailable during launch in case of an emergency.

Shuttlemission managers were expected to begin discussing whether to proceed withfueling operations for today’s planned launch at 9:42 a.m. EST (1442GMT). A positive decision calls for fueling to begin at 10:52 a.m. EST (1552GMT).

NASAwill broadcast Discovery’s launch countdown and planned liftoff on NASATV beginning at about 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT). You are invited to followthe countdown's progress using SPACE.com's feed, which is available by clickinghere.

- TariqMalik

Weather Outlook ImprovesSlightly for Evening Shuttle Launch

9 December 2006, 9:28 a.m. EST

Theweather forecast has improved just a bit for tonight’s planned launch ofNASA’s space shuttleDiscovery.

NASAofficials at Discovery’s Kennedy Space Center launch site in CapeCanaveral, Florida said the planned  8:47 p.m. EST (0247 Dec. 10 GMT)space shot now has a 40 percent of favorable weather at launch time. Thatfigure is a 10 percent increase from previous estimates given the expectationsof low clouds, showers and winds at the launch site.

Meanwhile,top NASA mission managers are expected to convene at 9:42 a.m. EST (1442 GMT)to discuss whether to press ahead with today’s launch ofDiscovery’s STS-116mission. The planned 12-day spaceflight will continue assembly of the International SpaceStation (ISS).

Ifmission managers decide to go forward, fueling of Discovery’s 15-storyexternal tank will begin at 10:52 a.m. EST (1552 GMT), NASA officials havesaid.

- TariqMalik

Shuttle UnveilingDelayed to Launch Day

9 December 2006, 7:28 a.m. EST

Therollback of a protective shroud away from the space shuttle Discovery inpreparation for tonight’s planned launch has been delayed, though NASA officialssaid the delay was not anticipated a planned 8:47:34 p.m. EST (0147:34 GMT)liftoff.

TheRotating Service Structure that shields NASAshuttles from weather and provides access to their payload bay for pad crewswas slated to begin pulling away from Discovery at Pad 39B at about 11:30 p.m.EST (0430 GMT) Friday, but was later pushed to 6:00 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) thismorning, according to a late night status update.

A liveNASA webcam feed appears to show 10-story service structure in place. Rollingthe structure back typically takes about one hour.


NASA shuttle mission managers are due to discuss whether toproceed with today’s launch preparations for Discovery’s STS-116mission to continue assembly of the International SpaceStation (ISS) during a morning meeting slated to begin at about 9:42 a.m.EST (1442 GMT). If positive, fueling of Discovery’s 15-story externalfuel tank would begin at about 10:52 a.m. EST (1552 GMT).

- TariqMalik

Weather is 70 PercentNo-Go for Saturday Shuttle Launch

8 December 2006, 11:10 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.– After thick clouds forced NASA to scrub last night's Discovery launchattempt, shuttle mission managers decided to wait 48 hours before trying again.Countdown is set to resume on Saturday at 3:52 a.m. EST (0852 a.m. GMT) at theT-minus 11 hours mark. There is about 6 hours of built-in hold time before thescheduled 8:47 p.m. EST (0147 a.m. Dec. 10 GMT) launch. The weather outlook is70 percent that low clouds, high crosswinds and showers could delay launch. Theforecast for Sunday and Monday are also bleak, at 60 percent no-go. The bestday for launch right now seems to be Tuesday, NASA weather forecasters say.

"We still are going to beconcerned about crosswinds, but we think Tuesday out of those three days isgoing to be the best day," NASA shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters toldreporters earlier this week.

NASA TV coverage of the Saturdaylaunch attempt will begin at 2:30 p.m. EST (0730 p.m. GMT). Readers can followallong using SPACE.com’sNASA TV feed, which is available by clicking hereor the button at the left.

- KerThan

Discovery LaunchRescheduled for Saturday

7 December 2006, 10:20p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –NASA will try to launch Shuttle Discovery again on Saturday, December 9 –a 48-hour scrub turnaround. The planned launch time will be 8:47:34 p.m. EST(0147:34 GMT 10 Dec)

A thick layer of low cloudsover Florida’s Kennedy Space Center forced a scrub of Thursdaynight’s launch attempt.

Weather conditions Saturdayare forecast to be marginal with just a 30% probability of acceptableconditions for launch – with potential launch rule violations from strongcrosswinds, showers and low clouds. Mission managers decided to forego a Fridaylaunch attempt due to a very unfavorable forecast - only a 1-in-10 chance ofsuitable weather was predicted.

- Roger Guillemette

Thick Clouds ScrubDiscovery Launch

7 December 2006, 9:35 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –A thick layer of low clouds over Florida’s Kennedy Space Center forcedNASA to scrub tonight’s launch attempt of Shuttle Discovery. Thecountdown clock was held at the T-minus 5 minute mark in hopes that weather conditionswould improve but to no avail.

No word yet as to when thenext launch attempt will be scheduled. Friday’s weather conditions areforecast to be worse than today, with a gradual improvement as the weekendprogresses.

- Roger Guillemette

Weather RemainsQuestionable for Discovery Launch 

7 December 2006, 9:10 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –The countdown is proceeding uneventfully at the Kennedy Space Center as theclock continues to tick down toward this evening’s scheduled launch ofShuttle Discovery on a mission to the International Space Station. Thecountdown is now holding at the T-9 minute mark – a planned built-inhold.

Dynamic weather conditionsalong Florida’s Space Coast are giving meteorologists fits and thecurrent conditions at the Kennedy Space Center are now ‘red’ orno-go for launch due to low clouds in the area - it is likely that a finaldetermination to proceed with launch will remain in doubt until liftoff time.Conditions at the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in Zaragoza, Spain arenow forecast to be within acceptable limits by launch time.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow.

The launch team is notworking any technical issues at this time; weather conditions are forecast toremain within acceptable limits for launch. There is an issue with ashort-range tracking camera that is being worked at this time – it is notexpected to impact the launch attempt.

- Roger Guillemette

Weather Improves forDiscovery Launch

7 December 2006, 8:35 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Weather conditions at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center have taken adramatic turn for the better and launch officials are becoming more optimisticthat the deck of clouds above the Pad 39-B will remain within acceptable limitsto allow a launch attempt this evening on a mission to the International SpaceStation.

The seven STS-116 astronauts,led by veteran commander Mark Polansky, are strapped into their seats, runningthrough their pre-launch checklists and configuring the cockpit for thespacecraft’s ascent to orbit. The close-out crew of technicians are nowbuttoning-up the launch pad and preparing to depart.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow – a final adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9minute hold to more precisely align with the space station's orbit.

Weather conditions at thethree Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites in Moron & Zaragoza, Spain& Istres, France are still of concern; however, Istres may be withinacceptable limits by launch time – at least one of TAL sites must havegood weather to support a launch attempt.

- Roger Guillemette

Shuttle Discovery’sHatch Sealed for Launch

7 December 2006, 8:00 p.m.EST

 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.– Technicians at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39-B have closed andsealed Shuttle Discovery’s hatch in preparation for this evening’sscheduled launch on a mission to the International Space Station. CommanderMark Polansky reports that the spacecraft cabin leak checks have beencompleted.

Inside, the seven STS-116astronauts are strapped into their seats, running through their pre-launchchecklists and configuring the cockpit for the spacecraft’s ascent toorbit. Discovery’s hatch closure was confirmed at about 7:48 p.m. EST.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow – a final adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9minute hold to more precisely align with the space station's orbit.

Launch forecasts remainpessimistic; a thick blanket of low clouds is likely to remain over the launchsite and winds are gusting to near acceptable limits. Forecast conditions atthe three Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites in Moron & Zaragoza, Spain& Istres, France are not promising, although Istres may be withinacceptable limits by launch time – at least one of TAL sites must havegood weather to support a launch attempt.

- Roger Guillemette

Discovery AstronautsStrapped-In for Launch

7 December 2006, 7:10 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –The seven Discovery astronauts are now strapped into their seats in preparationfor this evening’s launch attempt from Kennedy Space Center’sLaunch Pad 39-B. Commander Mark Polansky, pilot Bill Oefelein and crew are nowperforming a series of communications checks to ensure that the astronauts cantalk to flight controllers and each other during the spacecraft’s ascentto orbit. Discovery’s hatch is scheduled for closure at 7:20 p.m. EST(0020 GMT 8 Dec).

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow – a final adjustment of the launch time will be made at the T-9minute hold to more precisely align with the space station's orbit.

Discovery's external tank isfilled with a half-million gallons of super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquidoxygen. The vehicle is in "stable replenish" mode and its massivefuel tank will continue to be topped-off until launch time.

Earlier, the ice inspectionteam found no evidence of ice build-up during a comprehensive survey ofDiscovery, its external tank and surrounding launch pad for ice formation. Thetwo Solid Rocket Booster recovery ships have reported on-station, about 140miles off the Florida coast, in preparation for launch.

The launch team is notworking any technical issues at this time; however, weather forecasts remainpessimistic for a launch attempt this evening. Wind speeds at the launch padand the nearby Shuttle Landing Facility are being closely monitored as they aregusting close to acceptable limits and a persistent blanket of low cloudscovers the space center, although meteorologists have removed the threat ofrain showers from their launch time forecast. Weather at the three TransoceanicAbort Landing (TAL) sites in Moron & Zaragoza, Spain & Istres, Franceis described as “marginal.”

- Roger Guillemette

Discovery Crew Enters Spacecraft

7 December 2006, 6:20 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –The seven-astronaut crew of Shuttle Discovery are boarding their spacecraft atKennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-B.

Led by veteran shuttlecommander Mark Polansky, one-by-one the astronauts are being positioned intheir seats on Discovery’s flight and mid-decks in preparation for theirascent to orbit. 

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow. 

The launch team is notworking any technical issues; however, inclement weather conditions arethreatening to prevent a launch attempt this evening. Low clouds and gustywinds are converging on Florida’s Kennedy Space Center while conditionsat the three Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites in Spain & France aredescribed as “marginal.”

- Roger Guillemette

 

Discovery Astronauts Headto Launch Pad

7 December 2006, 5:45 p.m.EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Theseven Discovery astronauts have begun a 20-minute ride in their silver‘Astro Van’ toward Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B where theirspacecraft stands poised for launch this afternoon. NASA Test Director JeffSpaulding has given his permission for the astronauts to enter the spacecraft,indicating that all switches and systems in the cockpit are properly configuredfor the crew.

The launch team is notworking any vehicle or technical issues; however, weather officers continue toclosely conditions around Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and the threeTransoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites in Spain & France where weatherconditions are described as “marginal.”  Winds at theShuttle’s seaside launch complex are currently observed as“red” or no-go for launch and meteorologists are concerned that acombination of gusty winds, low cloud decks and rain showers in the vicinitymay prohibit a launch this evening.

The countdown has justresumed at the T-minus 3 hour mark and Discovery's external tank is now filledwith a half-million gallons of super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.The vehicle is in "stable replenish" mode and the massive fuel tankwill continue to be topped-off until launch time.

Discovery’s launch timeremains set for 9:35:48 p.m. EST (0235:48 GMT 8 Dec), with a 5-minute launchwindow, weather permitting.

- Roger Guillemette

Astronauts Sit Down forPrelaunch Meal
7 December 2006 2:23 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.–The seven STS-116 astronauts are sitting down for their last meal at theCrew Quarters and Checkout Building here at Kennedy Space Center. There are notechnical issues prohibiting launch, but weather continues to be an issue.

Readers can follow alongusing SPACE.com’sNASA TV feed, which is available by clicking hereor the button at the left.

- KerThan

Live Launch CoverageBegins
7 December 2006 3:30 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.–NASA has begun broadcasting livecommentary of Discovery’s launch countdown beginning. Readers canfollow along using SPACE.com’sNASA TV feed, which is available by clicking hereor the button at the left.

Launch preparations areproceeding as normal despite a gloomy weather outlook of only 40 percentfavorable conditons. Fueling of Discovery's external tanks with liquid oxygenand hydrogen were completed earlier this afternoon and an investigators havejust completed a final inspection of the tanks. The seven-member STS-116 crewwill don flight suits at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) before departing for thelaunch pad. Hatch closing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST (0030 Dec. 8GMT) andlaunch is set for 9:35:47 p.m. EST (0235:47 Dec. 8 GMT).

- KerThan

Shuttle Tanking Complete
7 December 2006 3:29 p.m. EST

Cape Canaveral, Fla. – Thetanking of Discovery's orange external tanks with 500,000 gallons of liquidoxygen and hydrogen is complete.

Launch remains scheduled for9:35:47 p.m. EST (0235:47 Dec. 8 GMT) tonight. Weather forecast remains dismalat only a 40 percent for favorable launch conditions. Friday and Saturdayforecasts are still 10 percent and 30 percent favorable, respectively. Allthree Trans-Atlantic Landing (TAL) sites are also currently 'no-go' due topossibilities of low clouds and showers within 20 miles of the landing sites.At least one TAL site must be clear for landing for a shuttle launch toproceed.

- KerThan

Tanking of Discovery'sExternal Tank Begins
7 December 2006 11:55 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –NASA launch crews began filling up Discovery's orange external tanks with500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen this morning at 11:33 a.m. EST(1657 GMT). Tanking is expected to take about 3 hours.

Other launch preparations areproceeding as planned, despite only a 40 percent forecast that weatherconditions will be favorable for tonight's scheduled 9:35:47 p.m. EST (0235:47Dec. 8 GMT) launch. The outlook for Friday and Saturday are even worse, at 90percent and 70 percent for 'no-go,' respectively. All three Trans-AtlanticLanding (TAL) sites are currently 'no-go' due to possibilities of low cloudsand showers within 20 miles of the landing sites.

The seven STS-116 astronautswill have woken up by now and, after breakfast, are scheduled to attend aweather briefing before suiting up to leave for the launch pad.

- KerThan

Shuttle Discovery Unveiledfor Launch
7 December 2006 8:24 a.m. EST

Shuttle workers unveiledNASA’s Discovery orbiterearly this morning, rolling back a protective Rotating Service Structure at thespacecraft’s Pad 39B launch site at the Kennedy Space Center.

The service structureprovides access to different areas of the orbiter. It began pulling away fromDiscovery at about 12:43 a.m. EST (0543 GMT). NASA mission managers plan tobegin fueling Discovery’s external tank with its supercold liquidhydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant at about 11:40 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) today.

Discovery is set to launchtonight at 9:35:47 p.m. EST (0235:47 Dec. 8 GMT), though the threat of lowclouds has led to a 60 percent chance that the planned space shot could bedelayed.

Click herefor SPACE.com’s previewstory of NASA’s STS-116 mission.

Commanded by veteranastronaut MarkPolansky, Discovery’s seven-astronaut crew is slated to continueassembly of the InternationalSpace Station (ISS), where they will deliver a new pieceof the outpost and rewire its power grid during their 12-daymission.

NASA will begin broadcasting livecommentary of Discovery’s launch countdown beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST(2030 GMT). You are invited to follow along using SPACE.com’sNASA TV feed, which is available by clicking hereor the button at the left.

Click hereto learn how to spot the shuttle’s launch in the sky.

The astronauts are expectedto make a ground-to-space call to the ISS crew to prepare for their stationassembly mission and will fly to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centerspaceport on Sunday.

- TariqMalik

 

Technical Issues Will NotDelay Discovery Launch
6 December 2006 4:05 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –Two last-minute technical issues discovered during shuttle tests andinspections have been deemed safe and will not delay Discovery's launch Thursdayevening, NASA mission mangers concluded after a two-hour meeting.

The issues involved a briefpower surge in circuits responsible for transferring power from the mobilelaunch platform to the orbiter and an anomalous test result from a batch of adhesiveused to glue together segments on the shuttle's reusable solid rocket booster.

But subsequent investigationshave determined that the power surge did not damage Discovery's external tankand boosters or the orbiter itself. Concerning the adhesive, the peel test thatprovided the anomalous result was not a flight-required test and therefore doesnot affect launch, said NASA spokesperson June Malone.

- KerThan

Shuttle Launch CountdownBegins Tonight
4 December 2006 2:45 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASAis set to begin a three-day countdown to the launch of the shuttle Discoverytonight at 11 p.m. EST.

The T-43 countdown willinclude 27 hours, 36 minutes of built-in hold time leading up to the 9:35 p.m.EST launch of the shuttle on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Before that happens, however,another event important for liftoff will take place. International SpaceStation (ISS) flight controllers are expected to boost the station into ahigher orbit today at 4:36 p.m. EST in preparation for docking with the shuttleon Dec. 9. Attempts to do so last week were cut short due to an unexpectedshift in the station's orientation. If the afternoon burn does no go asplanned, it could cut into the Discovery's launch window, which currently runsfrom Dec. 7 to 17.

There are some concerns thata low cloud ceiling and showers on launch day could delay Discovery's liftoffby 24-hours.

The five-man, two-woman crewof STS-116 arrived here at Kennedy Space Center yesterday afternoon, jetting inon T-28 training aircraft. The crew, currently under quarantine, are undergoingfinal preparations for their mission. STS-116 commander Mark Polansky and pilotWilliam Oefelein are also practicing shuttle landing, currently slated for Dec.19.

- KerThan

Shuttle Launch CountdownBegins Tonight
4 December 2006 2:45 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASAis set to begin a three-day countdown to the launch of the shuttle Discoverytonight at 11 p.m. EST.

The T-43 countdown willinclude 27 hours, 36 minutes of built-in hold time leading up to the 9:35 p.m.EST launch of the shuttle on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Before that happens, however,another event important for liftoff will take place. International Space Station(ISS) flight controllers are expected to boost the station into a higher orbittoday at 4:36 p.m. EST in preparation for docking with the shuttle on Dec. 9.Attempts to do so last week were cut short due to an unexpected shift in thestation's orientation. If the afternoon burn does no go as planned, it couldcut into the Discovery's launch window, which currently runs from Dec. 7 to 17.

There are some concerns thata low cloud ceiling and showers on launch day could delay Discovery's liftoff by24-hours.

The five-man, two-woman crewof STS-116 arrived here at Kennedy Space Center yesterday afternoon, jetting inon T-28 training aircraft. The crew, currently under quarantine, are undergoingfinal preparations for their mission. STS-116 commander Mark Polansky and pilotWilliam Oefelein are also practicing shuttle landing, currently slated for Dec.19.

- KerThan

Shuttle Astronauts EnterQuarantine for Dec. 7 Launch
1 December 2006 11:45 a.m. EST

Seven astronauts set tolaunch towards the InternationalSpace Station (ISS) aboard NASA’s Discovery orbiter next week arein quarantine to stay healthy before their planned12-day spaceflight.

NASA officials said Fridaythat the STS-116 astronauts, commanded veteran spaceflyer Mark Polansky,entered quarantine in the crew quarters at the Johnson Space Center in Houstonas they ready themselves for their Dec. 7 launch.

The astronauts are expectedto make a ground-to-space call to the ISS crew to prepare for their stationassembly mission and will fly to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centerspaceport on Sunday.

- TariqMalik

Disc

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