Updated: Shuttle Set for Liftoff Tuesday! It's a Go!


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davemania
With dogged determination, NASA will try resuming regular space shuttle missions this week, hoping that the venerable spacecraft will weather aging components and falling debris long enough to finish construction of the International Space Station.

The shuttle Discovery is scheduled to be launched as early as Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on just the second flight since the loss of the Columbia and its crew of seven. Officials hope to test the modifications and new procedures instituted after the disaster.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration flew its first test flight after the disaster almost a year ago, and the second was to follow just weeks later. But a problem with shedding foam persisted, even after the space agency spent more than a year and hundreds of millions of dollars to correct it.

The Columbia disintegrated while returning from a research mission on Feb. 1, 2003, after being critically damaged at liftoff when a piece of foam weighing 1.67 pounds broke from its external fuel tank and struck its left wing. That opened a crack that admitted superheated gases when the craft re-entered earth's atmosphere.

When the highly modified Discovery flew last year, much less foam debris fell. But the tank still shed several unacceptably large pieces, weighing up to a pound, that could have done severe damage. NASA grounded the fleet and removed 35 more pounds of foam from critical areas. This month, mission managers pronounced the Discovery ready to fly again, even though some engineers argued that more needed to be done.

Defending the decision, NASA's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, said that falling foam might pose a danger to the shuttle but not to the crew, because the astronauts could find a haven, if necessary, on the orbiting space station; another shuttle could then be sent to retrieve them. (Mr. Griffin did add, however, that another serious accident could end the shuttle program.)

The shuttle fleet is scheduled to fly 16 more missions to complete work on the half-finished space station and possibly to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The three remaining shuttles — Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour — are scheduled to be retired in 2010.

"If we're going to fly, we need to accept some programmatic risks — not crew risks — and get on with it," Dr. Griffin said.

The Discovery's crew members, experienced astronauts and rookies alike, say they are eager to get under way. "The crew is ready, we're ready," said the mission commander, Col. Steven W. Lindsey of the Air Force, who has flown three previous missions.

The main goals of the 12-day flight are to test the post-Columbia modifications and procedures, perform maintenance on the space station and deliver critical supplies, and deliver a new crew member to the station.

Until the Columbia disaster, the space station had three astronauts. Without regular shuttle visits, the station had provisions for only two. But now Thomas Reiter, a German astronaut with the European Space Agency, will join Pavel Vinogradov of Russia and Jeffrey Williams of the United States, who are about halfway through their 180-day stay. Station managers said the additional crewman would allow the astronauts to move beyond maintaining the research outpost to performing more science.

To inspect for possible in-flight damage to the Discovery, NASA has mounted additional cameras on the shuttle since the last mission; every aspect of liftoff will be examined for possible problems. Video cameras at the top of each rocket booster look down on the fuel tank, and new ones on the bottom look up. One on the tank looks at the shuttle's belly, and a digital camera will take photographs of the fuel tank after it drops away.

Expanded observations of the flight will also take place on the ground. More than 100 cameras and radar devices at 25 widely scattered sites will make high-definition images of the shuttle from numerous angles. As with the previous launching, this one will be done in daylight so the fuel tank can be easily photographed as it drops into the ocean thousands of miles from Cape Canaveral.

The inspection will continue as the shuttle heads to the space station. Astronauts will extend a 50-foot, Canadian-built robot arm that has a 50-foot boom with a camera and a laser imager. The crew will spend seven hours moving the boom along critical parts of the shuttle's heat-protection system looking for potential problems areas, and will relay the data to the ground for closer examination.

Upon approaching the space station, Colonel Lindsey will stop the Discovery about 600 feet away and execute a tricky maneuver that should take about eight minutes. He will rotate the 100-ton orbiter nose-up in a full circle, allowing the station crew to take detailed photographs of the shuttle. Once done, Colonel Lindsey and the Discovery's pilot, Mark E. Kelly, a Navy commander who flew on one earlier mission, will dock the shuttle to the station.

The two spacecraft will be attached for about a week, during which time the Discovery will unload tons of supplies and new equipment carried in an Italian-made module called Leonardo. The cargo transfer will be supervised by Stephanie D. Wilson, a first-time astronaut, who will also use the station's robot arm to move Leonardo from the shuttle's cargo bay to the station and back again.

Two spacewalks are planned during the mission, with a third possible if controllers determine that the Discovery has enough power and oxygen for an extra day at the station. Piers J. Sellers, a veteran of a previous flight and three spacewalks, and Michael E. Fossum, on his first mission, will venture outside to repair a mini-railcar system that transports equipment.

The pair will also attach a work platform to the end of the shuttle's robot arm and extension boom to see if it can serve as a stable platform that would allow astronauts to reach previously inaccessible parts of the shuttle to repair damage. The Discovery's flight engineer, Cmdr. Lisa M. Nowak of the Navy, who is on her first mission, will operate the robot arm during the spacewalks. If a third walk is possible, the astronauts will tests methods that could be used to repair damage to the heat shields on the shuttle's wing and nose.

If the mission is successful, N. Wayne Hale Jr., the chief of the shuttle program, said NASA could launch the Atlantis as early as Aug. 28 to resume construction of the space station.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/27/science/space/27shutt.html

Hopefully everything will go well, I personally think that the foam problem is an overall design problem and there really isn't much NASA can do to prevent it from falling off during takeoff. It's just a risk they'll have to take.

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Hum

I've got my post-37120-1151505776.gif ready. :woot:

God-speed astronauts.

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Rob2687

Go go STS-121!

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vincent

My hopes are with them, nothing is gauranteed for them and this is why i applaud them, i wish i was an astronaut.

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ThisSiteHasLostItsCharm

had my browser playin the live feed all day, T-42 mins !!!!!!

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Rob2687

No launch today. :/

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ThisSiteHasLostItsCharm

yea damn clouds.....roll on tomorrow!!

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Hum

:crazy: Wimpy NASA canceled again. AHHHH

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ThisSiteHasLostItsCharm

crap.. :no:

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John S.
July 2, 2006, 12:24PM

Weather Forces 2nd Straight Shuttle Delay

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? Stormy weather prevented NASA from launching Discovery for the second day in a row Sunday, extending a yearlong grounding of the space shuttle necessitated by persistent trouble with fuel-tank foam.

Launch officials said they would try again Tuesday, on the Fourth of July, after giving the work force a day of rest and a chance to replenish the shuttle's on-board fuel. The weather was expected to improve by Tuesday, although rain was still in the forecast.

title editedi>
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Shibby

It's a shame it has stoped but if it's unsafe to launch then we can't really complain.

I was really looking forward to it today!!

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John S.
Crack Found in Foam on Shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Inspectors found a 5-inch-long crack in the foam insulation covering the shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank, and NASA managers were deciding Monday whether to call off the scheduled Fourth of July launch.

The crack was spotted during an overnight inspection. NASA had scrubbed launch plans Saturday and Sunday because of poor weather and had removed fuel from the tank.

The inspectors found the crack, which was 8 inches deep, in the foam on a bracket near the top of the external fuel tank.

"We don't know if it's a problem or not," NASA spokesman George Diller said Monday.

Officials were meeting to determine whether it could be fixed for a Tuesday liftoff.

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vincent

:(

But at least they spotted it before they did get the ok to lift off. (Y)

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Rob2687

They need to dump those and get a new shuttle entirely.

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John S.

more info...

image1773998g.jpg

Engineers inspecting the shuttle Discovery's external tank following Sunday's launch scrub found the crack in the tank's foam insulation near a bracket holding a 17-inch oxygen feed line in place, reports CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood. Some engineers believe the crack must be repaired, but senior managers say a variety of options are on the table, from fly as is to making repairs.

Engineers found a small piece of foam insulation resting on the surface of Discovery's mobile launch platform that Harwood confirms was associated with the crack.

NASA managers say the five-inch-long crack was found overnight. Inspectors say it's an eighth of an inch deep.

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primexx

Damnit it's getting annoying all these delays.

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John S.

updated the title to reflect the latest articles added to the thread

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John S.
Shuttle Launch on Despite Damaged Foam

Jul 03 8:51 PM US/Eastern

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.

NASA gave the green light Monday night for a Fourth of July shuttle liftoff despite worries about a piece of foam that popped off Discovery's external fuel tank while the spacecraft sat on the launch pad.

The decision was sure to stir more debate about whether the space agency was putting its flight schedule ahead of safety.

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Nashy

Just hurry up and build a new vehicle, they are too old.

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b10h4z4rd

Do you realize how long it takes to design a reusable spacecraft? They have been wanting to replace the aging shuttle fleet since the mid to late 90's. I bet we won't see a new, usable, and reusable spacecraft in solid form till 2020. Just a guess though.

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Nashy

Who's fault is it that they don't have a new one ready to use. Not ours. They should be grounded.

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b10h4z4rd

I'm sure if they had the budget to do that, they would drop the shuttles. But they don't have the budget that they did in the 60's or 70's. But who else has reusable spacecraft? Granted, the shuttles do have their flaws, but still they are looking at alternatives. It took quite a few years to bring the shuttle from the drawing boards to an actual spacecraft. Here is a shuttle replacement proposed but Lockheed Martin. Still, the shuttle is our best bet. The Soyuz has such a limited payload capabilities to make it somewhat unfeasible for a long term solution if we (the U.S) suddenly mothballed the last shuttles. With the large cargo capacity for parts and suppies for the ISS, the shuttle will probably be pushed to its usibility limits. If we lose another one, yeah it's very heartbreaking and unfortunate, but who said spacetravel was easy and safe. NASA did get too complacient and so did the populace. And I sure hope that another Columbia or Challenger won't happen again, but it's their duty. They choose to do it and they know the inherent risks.

*Edit - can someone fix my double post, it won't let me edit it*

Edited by b10h4z4rd
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ObiWanToby

What time is it launching?

Launching at 2:38 PM EST

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Shof

Around 2:40pmEST

watching it now

there might be a 1 mintue hold towards the end

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