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Thu, Dec 07, 2006

NASA Postpones Discovery Launch Due To Lingering Clouds

Talk About Down To The Wire!

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 12.07.06 2135 EST: It literally came down to the final moments... but in the end, NASA opted to postpone Thursday night's planned launch of the space shuttle Discovery for another day. Broken clouds at 5500 feet MSL, below NASA's guidelines for a safe launch, are to blame for the delay.

NASA will next try to launch Discovery on its mission to rewire the International Space Station on Saturday... but weather is expected to be a problem then, as well. NASA has one week to launch Discovery before the launch window to the ISS closes.

Previous Reports

2105 EST: Rats! The weather at Kennedy Space Center has just dipped into "Red" territory once again, meaning conditions are currently not permissible for launch of the shuttle Discovery, 30 minutes from now. It's getting close...

2030 EST: No violations! That's the latest word from NASA, which has its collective eyes turned skyward as the final hour counts down before the scheduled launch of the shuttle Discovery.

At the moment, the clouds are lifting and the winds have fallen into the acceptable range. If these conditions hold through 9:35 pm EST, in looks like NASA will be able to launch Discovery tonight after all.

The launch crew also reports no technical faults that could conspire to scrub the launch for non-weather-related reasons.

1835 EST: With the help of the Closeout Crew and Astronaut Support Personnel, the crewmembers of STS-116 are now taking their seats inside Space Shuttle Discovery as the vehicle awaits liftoff later this evening.

Once in place, the crew will begin powering up Discovery's systems and preparing the ship for launch... which, at this point, appears all-but-certain to be postponed, due to worsening weather conditions. But NASA is holding out hope the weather will cooperate.

Should the launch be postponed, NASA will try again on Saturday.

1800 EST: At just over T-minus 3 hours, 35 minutes to launch, the weather remains a potential problem for NASA as it attempts to send the shuttle Discovery on its mission to the International Space Station.

The latest weather briefing indicates the winds at Kennedy Space Center have picked up, as predicted, occasionally exceeding speeds that would force a no-go decision. Those winds could actually serve a useful purpose for NASA, though -- as they might help blow out low-hanging cloud cover that had enveloped the Cape for the past several hours.

NASA remains optimistic the weather will clear and the winds will calm in time for the shuttle's scheduled launch at 9:35 pm EST, the first nighttime launch of a shuttle in four years.

This one's gonna come down to the wire, folks...

1425 EST: Tanking operations continue for tonight's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Discovery, despite a positively gloomy weather outlook.

NASA reports a 60 percent chance clouds and rain could postpone the launch from KSC at 9:35 pm EST. 

There are also weather-related concerns at the three Transatlantic Abort Landing sites.

Stay tuned for the latest updates from NASA.

1145 EST: Launch day has dawned at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Space Shuttle Discovery and a crew of seven astronauts are undergoing final preparations for the STS-116 mission to the International Space Station. But a stubborn cold front may scrap the mission until the first part of next week.

NASA reports all systems onboard the space shuttle are functioning normally, but there's a 60 percent chance of weather prohibiting a liftoff at 9:35 pm EST. A cold front moving through the area is expected to bring with it a lingering blanket of low clouds and isolated light rain.

For now, though, the team will press on with the countdown... just in case the weather cooperates after all.

Starting at 11:43 am, Discovery's orange external tank will be loaded with 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen. This process, called "tanking," takes about three hours to complete. The propellant levels in the tank will be continuously "topped off" until the final minutes of the countdown.

Across the space center, in the Operations and Checkout Building's crew quarters, the astronauts are scheduled to wake up just as tanking is getting under way. After breakfast, a weather briefing and suiting up, they'll board the silver Astrovan and leave for the launch pad amid the cheers of Kennedy employees.

The STS-116 mission is the 33rd for Discovery, and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the 12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the International Space Station, rewiring the orbiting laboratory and adding a segment to its integrated truss structure.

If Discovery does not launch Thursday night, the next best chance for launch will likely not occur until the first part of next week. Conditions at KSC are expected to deteriorate further through Sunday night.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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