BY JUSTIN RAY and STAFF WRITERS
December 28, 1999 -- Follow the launch and mission of space shuttle Discovery to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. All times are given in Greenwich Mean Time. Feel free to e-mail us your comments. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
2000 GMT (3:00 p.m. EST)
Meanwhile, space shuttle Discovery is back in its hangar following an overnight tow from the runway. The ship is reported in good shape after its eight days in space with one minor exception. Officials say one black tile is missing on the right inboard elevon next to the fuselage. The missing tile measures 9 inches by 4 1/2 inches. The tile is one of thousands that cover the space shuttle to protect it during the fiery reentry into Earth's atmosphere. The missing tile allowed no significant damage to Discovery and the space agency says the astronauts were never in any danger.
Over the next two days, shuttle's fuel cells and propellant tanks will be deserviced and safed. Then, Discovery and sisterships Atlantis and Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center will be powered down for the Y2K rollover. Routine processing work will resume on January 4.
The next flight of Discovery is scheduled for launch on June 14. The STS-92 mission will ferry a truss segment and docking port to the International Space Station.
The next launch for the space shuttle program is planned for mid-to-late January when Endeavour begins an 11-day mission to map the Earth's surface with radar. An exact date is still pending.
Finally, we would like to thank all of you for your kind notes about our coverage and the well wishes for the holidays.
This will conclude our Mission Status Center coverage of Discovery's STS-103 flight and the third servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope.
0139 GMT (8:39 p.m. EST)
The seven astronauts are among the 390 different people that have flown in space during this millennium. Beginning with the first manned spaceflight, Yuri Gagarin's flight for the Soviet Union in 1961, 354 men and 36 women from 29 countries have ventured into Earth orbit.
NASA says Discovery's crew will return to their homes in Houston on Tuesday, departing from Patrick Air Force Base at 2:30 p.m. EST. A ceremony is planned to welcome the astronauts home at Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center at about 5 p.m. local time. The event will occur at Hangar 990 and is open to the general public.
Our Mission Status Center coverage of STS-103 will continue later on Tuesday with confirmation of Discovery's return to its hangar.
0116 GMT (8:16 p.m. EST)
0046 GMT (7:46 p.m. EST)
With the crew egress complete, soon control of the shuttle will be handed from Johnson Space Center to the Kennedy Space Center.
Meanwhile, we have received several e-mails for folks who saw the shuttle soaring overhead during the trek into Kennedy Space Center tonight. In Dallas, a Spaceflight Now reader saw a white blaze followed by a long trail of smoke. In east Texas, one person said it was clearly visible directly overhead at 6:44 p.m. EST and a sonic boom was heard about five minutes later. In New Orleans the shuttle was seen streaking across the sky somewhat north of the city, passing right on schedule at about 6:46 p.m. EST in a not-quite-dark sky. A muffled sonic boom was heard about five minutes later there, too. Finally in Pensacola, Florida, the shuttle appeared as an orange dot at about 6:48 EST.
Also, we have posted a 348k QuickTime video file of Discovery's landing.
0017 GMT (7:17 p.m. EST)
0007 GMT (7:07 p.m. EST)
Mission Control has announced the preliminary landing times:
Main gear touchdown
0001 GMT (7:01 p.m. EST)
0000 GMT (7:00 p.m. EST)
0000 GMT (7:00 p.m. EST)
MONDAY, DECEMBER 27, 1999
2358 GMT (6:58 p.m. EST)
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2305 GMT (6:05 p.m. EST)
Aboard the shuttle right now, the astronauts are preparing to dump remaining propellant from the forward reaction control system thrusters. The propellant is now longer needed.
2258 GMT (5:58 p.m. EST)
2255 GMT (5:55 p.m. EST)
2253 GMT (5:53 p.m. EST)
Today's landing will be the 20th consecutive to occur at Kennedy Space Center dating back to May 1996 and the 27th of the last 28 shuttle missions. KSC is the most used landing site for the space shuttle program with this the 49th touchdown. Edwards Air Force Base in California has seen 45 landings and White Sands in New Mexico supported one. STS-103 will also be the 13th night landing for the shuttle program and 8th at KSC.
2248 GMT (5:48 p.m. EST)
2244 GMT (5:44 p.m. EST)
2236 GMT (5:36 p.m. EST)
Coming up on the deorbit burn in about 12 minutes. The commands have been loaded aboard Discovery's computers. The burn will now last four-minutes and 50 seconds, resulting in a change in velocity of 348 miles per hour. Landing still on target for 7:01 p.m. EST.
2228 GMT (5:28 p.m. EST)
Discovery's path toward the Kennedy Space Center will follow across the South Pacific, heading northeasterly. The shuttle will pass over Baja California and northwest Mexico, central Texas and southern Louisiana before crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Discovery will make landfall in Florida just north of Tampa and heading above central Florida toward Kennedy Space Center. Once over the Cape, commander Curt Brown will make a 232-degree right-overhead turn, flying over the Atlantic Ocean, to align with Runway 33 - KSC's southeast-to-northwest landing strip. Touchdown is expected at 7:01 p.m. EST.
Since Discovery's trek home will occur at night, the shuttle's fiery trail should be seen by folks in Texas and Louisiana between 6:40 and 6:46 p.m. EST (2340-2346 GMT). We would enjoy hearing from anyone who spots the shuttle tonight.
2219 GMT (5:19 p.m. EST)
The twin orbital maneuvering system engines on the tail of the shuttle will be fired for four-minutes and 45 seconds beginning at 5:48:26 p.m. EST. Landing on Runway 33 at KSC is targeted to occur at 7:01 p.m. EST (0001 GMT).
2218 GMT (5:18 p.m. EST)
2216 GMT (5:16 p.m. EST)
2207 GMT (5:07 p.m. EST)
2158 GMT (4:58 p.m. EST)
Again, we have posted the landing tracks for the second opportunity into Kennedy Space Center tonight. The shuttle should be visible to parts of Texas and Louisiana on the way into Florida.
2146 GMT (4:46 p.m. EST)
Crosswinds are still being watched but trending downward. The latest weather forecast currently indicates crosswinds right at the acceptable limit of 12 knots, but within limits nonetheless. Also, chief astronaut Charlie Precourt flying the shuttle training aircraft at KSC says the turbulence has dropped off significantly.
2139 GMT (4:39 p.m. EST)
The crew was informed of the latest game plan for the next landing opportunity. The plan begins with the deorbit burn -- the orbital maneuvering system engine firing -- at 5:48:26 p.m. EST (2248:26 GMT). The four-minute and 45-second burn will slow Discovery by about 508 feet per second, enough to drop the 110-ton shuttle from orbit to start the hour-long dive through Earth's atmosphere. The shuttle will arrive at KSC from the west, passing over the Cape before making a 232-degree right-overhead turn above the Atlantic Ocean to align with Runway 33.
2131 GMT (4:31 p.m. EST)
2110 GMT (4:10 p.m. EST)
Still over an hour before a decision would be made on the fate of this upcoming landing opportunity.
2100 GMT (4:00 p.m. EST)
NASA continues to hope the crosswinds at Kennedy Space Center will decrease enough to allow Discovery to return home. However, since this second opportunity is a nighttime landing, the crosswind limit is more strict. Instead of 15 knots during the day, the limit will be 12 knots.
There is a third landing possibility at KSC today. That would begin with a deorbit burn at 7:32 p.m. EST (0032:12 GMT Tuesday) and landing at 8:43 p.m. EST (0143 GMT).
2050 GMT (3:50 p.m. EST)
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2040 GMT (3:40 p.m. EST)
The plan now calls for Discovery to make another orbit of Earth while waiting for the winds to decrease. The deorbit burn for the next opportunity would occur at 5:49 p.m. EST (2249 GMT) with landing in darkness at 7:01 p.m. EST (0001 GMT Tuesday).
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2010 GMT (3:10 p.m. EST)
1955 GMT (2:55 p.m. EST)
Fluid loading is a procedure where the crewmembers get as much fluid as they can in their bodies to replace that lost in space, helping the readaptation to Earth's gravity. The loading typically lasts the one hour before the deorbit burn.
1947 GMT (2:47 p.m. EST)
1941 GMT (2:41 p.m. EST)
Weather still looks good.
1921 GMT (2:21 p.m. EST)
At this point, weather conditions continue to look favorable and landing remains set to occur in just under three hours at 5:18 p.m. EST (2218 GMT).
1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
If all continues to go well and weather conditions cooperate, the astronauts will fire the shuttle's twin orbital maneuvering system engines for four minutes and 58 seconds beginning at 4:06:40 p.m. EDT. The burn will slow Discovery by about 525 feet per second, enough to drop the 110-ton shuttle from orbit to start the hour-long dive through Earth's atmosphere. Discovery should begin feeling the upper fringes of the atmosphere at 4:47:30 p.m. EST at an altitude of 415,000 feet. At 5:14:52 p.m. EST, commander Curt Brown will make a 300-degree left-overhead turn to align Discovery with Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15. Landing is expected at 5:18:50 p.m. EST.
1851 GMT (1:51 p.m. EST)
1830 GMT (1:30 p.m. EST)
Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Discovery (OV-103)
Payload: HST Servicing Mission-3A
Launch date: Dec. 20, 1999
Launch window: 0050-0132 GMT (7:50-8:32 p.m. EST Dec. 19)
Launch site: LC-39B, Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Landing date: Dec. 28, 1999
Landing time: 0001 GMT (7:01 p.m. EST Dec. 27)
Landing site: SLF, Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Landing tracks - maps of the ground track Discovery will follow toward landing.
Deployment - images of Hubble's release from Discovery on Saturday.
Third spacewalk - views from Friday's spacewalk.
Second spacewalk - views from Thursday's spacewalk.
First spacewalk - views from Wednesday's spacewalk.
Retrieval - images from the rendezvous and capture of Hubble.
Launch - images from the countdown and launch.
NEW! The space shuttle Discovery touches down in darkness at the Kennedy Space Center.
PLAY (348k QuickTime file)
The Hubble Space Telescope is set free from the grip of the shuttle's robot arm, refurbished and ready to resume its scientific work.
PLAY (733k QuickTime file)
British born astronaut Michael Foale removes Hubble's old computer during the second spacewalk of the mission.
PLAY (450k QuickTime file)
Space shuttle Discovery launches on STS-103 for the third mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
PLAY (596k QuickTime file)
Discovery's solid rocket boosters peel away from the shuttle's external fuel tank just over two minutes into flight.
PLAY (218k QuickTime file)
The STS-103 crew depart their crew quarters on Sunday afternoon headed for launch pad 39B.
PLAY (341k QuickTime file)
NASA Launch Director Dave King announces that the first launch attempt on Friday was scrubbed because of bad weather.
PLAY (253k QuickTime file)
Download QuickTime 4 software to view this file.
Meet the crew
Curt Brown - Biography of STS-103 crew commander.
Scott Kelly - Biography of STS-103 pilot.
Steve Smith - Biography of STS-103 mission specialist No. 1.
Jean-Francois Clervoy - Biography of STS-103 mission specialist No. 2.
John Grunsfeld - Biography of STS-103 mission specialist No. 3.
Michael Foale - Biography of STS-103 mission specialist No. 4.
Claude Nicollier - Biography of STS-103 mission specialist No. 5.
Explore the Net
NASA Human Spaceflight - Space agency Web site dedicated to International Space Station and space shuttle programs.
Press kit - Official STS-103 mission press kit.
Shuttle Media Reference Guide - Complete in-depth look at space shuttle systems and facilities.
Shuttle Countdown Online - NASA Kennedy Space Center site with pre-launch information.
Hubble Space Telescope - Home page of NASA's first Great Observatory.
HST Servicing Mission 3A - NASA site focused on this servicing mission of Hubble.
European Space Agency - partner in HST program and has two astronauts flying on STS-103.
United Space Alliance - prime contractor responsible for daily shuttle processing work.
Thiokol - Manufactures the shuttle's solid rocket boosters.
Rocketdyne - Division of Boeing that builds shuttle main engines.
Lockheed Martin - Corporation that builds the external fuel tank.