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