Weather forecast excellent for shuttle launch
Tuesday, March 10th 2009, 11:34 am
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- After suffering through a month's delay, NASA enjoyed a trouble-free countdown for space shuttle Discovery, all set to blast off on a space station construction mission Wednesday night.
Launch director Mike Leinbach said Monday that the countdown was going smoothly, and forecasters put the odds of good launching weather at 90 percent. "The team is anxious to go," he said.
Shuttle managers had so little to discuss at Monday morning's launch review at that they wrapped up in under an hour.
"That included a lot of me pausing to make sure no one had any questions," said the chairman of the mission management team, Mike Moses.
Concern over some shuttle valves led to repeated meetings over the past month, one lasting as long as 13 hours. By Monday, there was little more to say about the valve issue.
One of the three hydrogen gas valves inside Endeavour's engine compartment broke in November during the last shuttle launch. NASA ordered extra testing to make sure the valves that ultimately ended up in Discovery were safe to fly.
The valves control the flow of hydrogen gas into the external fuel tank for proper pressurization.
Discovery and seven astronauts will fly to the international space station, carrying up a $300 million framework that includes two solar wings and a radiator. It's the last set of solar wings for the nearly completed space station, and should put the orbiting outpost at full power.
One of the shuttle crew, Koichi Wakata, will become the first Japanese to live aboard the space station. He'll replace an American astronaut, Sandra Magnus, who has been up there since November.
More than 200 Japanese have descended on NASA's launching site to watch the liftoff.