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Space Shuttle Discovery on Track for Tuesday Launch

Weather Looks Good for Tuesday Shuttle Launch
The space shuttle Discovery sits poised for an Aug. 25, 2009 launch atop Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA/Troy Cryder)

NASA?sspace shuttle Discovery is on track for a planned Tuesday launch toward theInternational Space Station, mission managers said Saturday.

The shuttleand its seven-astronaut crew are nearly ready for theirpredawn launch Tuesday at 1:36 a.m. EDT (0536 GMT) from NASA?sKennedy Space Center in Florida, said NASA test director CharlieBlackwell-Thompson.

?All of ourvehicle systems are in good shape. Our countdown work is progressing well,?Blackwell-Thompson said today in a morning status briefing. ?Discovery and herlaunch team are ready to go.?

NASA begancounting down toward the launch late Friday and expects good weather forDiscovery?s liftoff. Current forecasts predict a 70 percent chance of favorableconditions for blast off. The potential for nearbylightning during fueling and isolated thunderstorms around launch time arethe only concerns.

?Weathershould be pretty good, overall, for launch,? said Kathy Winters, NASA?s shuttleweather officer.

The moon willset late Monday night, setting the stage for what promises to be a beautifullaunch, she added.

?The skiesare going to be completely dark at launch time,? Winters said. ?So that?s goingto make for a veryimpressive launch if the clouds all get out of here.?

Commandedby veteran spaceflyer Rick Sturckow, Discovery?s six-man, one-woman crew is setto fly a 13-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver a cargopod packed with about 15,200 pounds (6,894 kg) of new science gear, supplies anda treadmill named after comedianStephen Colbert.

Threespacewalks are planned for the mission.

Discoveryis also ferrying NASA astronaut Nicole Stott to the space station, where shewill replace astronaut Tim Kopra as a member of the outpost?ssix-person crew.

Kopra haslived aboard the station since mid-July and will return home on Discovery. Stottexpects to spend at least three months aboard the station and return homeduring a planned November shuttle mission.

Blackwell-Thompsontold reporters that engineers have completed testing a new power controllerthat was installed aboard Discovery after an older one failed. An analysis ofthe failed component will be presented to NASA managers during a Sunday meetingas one of the last issues to be settled before launch.

?From awork perspective, that work is behind us,? Blackwell-Thompson said.

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SPACE.comwill provide complete coverage of Discovery's STS-128 mission to theInternational Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik and Staff WriterClara Moskowitz. Click herefor shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.


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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. 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. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.