Shuttle Discovery on Track for Saturday Launch

Space Shuttle Discovery Moves to Launch Pad
Access platforms at Launch Pad 39A are moved into position against Space Shuttle Discovery. Discovery arrived at its seaside launch pad and was hard down at 6:06 a.m. EDT on May 3. (Image credit: NASA/Troy Cryder)

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:29 p.m. EDT.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA?s space shuttle Discovery is on track tolaunch Saturday to deliver the space station?s largest laboratory and somespare parts for the outpost?s commode, mission managers said today.

Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew have an 80 percent chance of goodweather for their planned 5:02 p.m. EDT (2102 GMT) liftoff, mission managerssaid today here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Fla. TheSTS-124 astronauts are slated to install the tour bus-sized JapaneseKibo laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS).

Discovery?s crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Mark Kelly, flew in to sunny skies here at the Florida spaceport today. They arrived on T-38 jets from Houston around 12:00 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT).

?Discovery is perched on the pad,Kibo is ready to go, the weather looks good,? said mission specialist Mike Fossumwhen they arrived. ?We?re about as ready as we could possibly be. I think it?stime to go fly.?

Launch controllers at KSC will begin counting down to Saturday?s plannedlaunch at 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) today.

?All of our systems are in good shape, countdown work is on schedule,and we have no issues to report,? said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA testdirector.

So far weather forecasts spot only a slim chance of thunderstorms causing this weekend's liftoff to be delayed.

?The weather?s going to be looking pretty good for launch,? said KathyWinters, shuttle weather officer, at a preflight briefing today. ?Right now itdoes look good for the launch attempt for the first day.?

A recent addition to Discovery?s payload is a replacement pump for theISS?s malfunctioning service module toilet, which has only been working?sporadically,? said Scott Higginbotham, STS-124 payload manager.

Discovery?s mission will mark NASA?s third shuttle flight of the year,and the second of three to deliver elements of Japan?s massive Kibo lab. TheSTS-124 astronauts plan to perform three spacewalks during their 14-daymission to attach the 37-foot (11-meter) main segment of Kibo, relocate themodule's attic-likestorage compartment, and perform other station maintenance.


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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.