NASA counts down to shuttle launch with eye on weather
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
Posted: October 3, 2000
"The launch team is not working any issues in the count at this point," Altemus said. "The flight and ground systems are performing well and we're all looking forward to putting another piece of the international space station into orbit Thursday night."
Weather permitting, of course. Discovery's launch window will last just two and a half to five minutes - the exact duration will not be computed until Thursday afternoon - giving NASA no time to wait for conditions to improve.
A large area of tropical moisture is moving north across Florida today, soaking the space center with heavy rain. While forecasters expect the clouds to begin thinning out by Thursday afternoon, there is still a 40 percent chance of showers and thick cloud cover at launch time that could force a delay.
The outlook is similar for Friday evening when thunderstorms ahead of an approaching cold front are expected to pound the Kennedy Space Center area. Conditions are expected to be worse Saturday. While the cold front will dry out the air over central Florida, it is expected to produce higher-than-allowable crosswinds at the spaceport's emergency runway. Conditions are 60 percent "no go" Saturday.
"If I had to pick, of the three days I think that the most likely would be Thursday," said John Weems, a shuttle weather officer with the 45th Space Wing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
But NASA's launch strategy calls for making two back-to-back launch attempts Thursday and Friday, if necessary, and then to stand down a day to give the launch team time to rest. A third launch try would be scheduled for Sunday.
Along with monitoring Florida's weather, NASA managers also are monitoring the progress of Tropical Storm Keith as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is now predicted move westward toward the eastern coast of Mexico. Forecasters do not expect the storm to disrupt mission control operations at the Johnson Space Center south of Houston.
The weather will be assessed later today at a standard launch-minus-two-day management review at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch team could be directed to delay or re-order some countdown events to give forecasters more time to monitor Keith's actual progress. But as of this writing, that would not appear to be necessary.
Assuming no changes are ordered, the countdown will resume at 8 p.m. this evening at the T-minus 27-hour mark after a four-hour built-in hold with the loading of liquid hydrogen and oxygen to power the shuttle's electrical generators. The shuttle's aft engine compartment has been closed for flight as have the ship's two 60-foot-long payload bay doors.
"We're clean and green," said launch manager Bill Dowdell.
Take a guided tour through Discovery's payload bay and see the space station cargo being carried aloft in this NASA animation. Lead Flight Director Chuck Shaw narrates.
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NASA animation shows Discovery approaching and docking to the international space station during the STS-92 mission.
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Animation shows how the Z1 truss structure will be maneuvered out of Discovery's payload bay and attached to the space station.
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The Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 docking port is lifted from Discovery's payload bay and attached to the space station in this animation.
PLAY (283k, 40sec QuickTime file)
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Flight Data File
Quick look data - Facts, figures and important information about the mission.
Flight plan - A detailed day-by-day timetable of the major mission events based on NASA's official flight plan.
Mission hardware - The major components and equipments that make up the shuttle vehicle for STS-92.
The crew - Meet the seven astronauts who will fly aboard shuttle Discovery.
Key personnel - Listing of the major people behind the shuttle flight.
Space demographics before and after - How the space explorers numbers will stack up before and after STS-92.
Tracking spacecraft - Latest orbital data for tracking the shuttle, station and other satellites on your computer.
Explore the Net - A list of useful links to other Internet sites with information related to STS-92.
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