Status Report

NASA Return to Flight Launch Countdown Begins July 10 for Space Shuttle Discovery

By SpaceRef Editor
July 7, 2005
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NASA Return to Flight Launch Countdown Begins July 10 for Space Shuttle Discovery

NASA will begin the countdown for the Return to Flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-114 July 10 at 6 p.m. EDT, 43 hours before liftoff. Discovery’s seven-member crew will test new equipment and procedures to increase the safety of the Shuttle and deliver spare parts, water and supplies to the International Space Station.

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch team will conduct the countdown from Firing Room 3 of the Launch Control Center. The countdown includes nearly 27 hours of built-in hold time leading to a preferred launch time at about 3:51 p.m. on July 13 with a launch window extending about five minutes.

This historic mission is the 114th Space Shuttle flight and the 17th U.S. flight to the International Space Station. STS-114 is scheduled to last about 12 days with a planned KSC landing at about 11:01 a.m. EDT on July 25.

Discovery rolled into KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) on Aug. 22, 2001, after returning from its last mission STS-105 in August 2001 and undergoing an Orbiter Major Modification period. The Shuttle rolled out of OPF bay 3 and into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on March 29. While in VAB high bay 1, Discovery was mated to its redesigned External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters. The entire Space Shuttle stack was transferred to Launch Pad 39B on April 7.

In order to allow for the addition of a new heater to the External Tank, Space Shuttle Discovery was rolled back to the VAB on May 26 for that modification to be performed. Discovery was removed from its External Tank and attached to a new tank originally scheduled to fly with orbiter Atlantis on mission STS-121, the second Return to Flight mission.

Discovery was rolled back out to Launch Pad 39B on June 15 in preparation for the July launch window.

On mission STS-114, the crew will perform inspections on orbit for the first time of all of the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC) panels on the leading edge of the wings and the Thermal Protection System tiles using the new Canadian-built Orbiter Boom Sensor System and the data from 176 impact and temperature sensors. Mission Specialists will also practice repair techniques on RCC and tile samples during a spacewalk in the payload bay.

In the payload bay, the Multi-Purpose Logistic Module Raffaello, built by the Italian Space Agency, will carry 11 racks with supplies, hardware, equipment and the Human Research Facility-2.

During two additional spacewalks, the crew will install the External Stowage Platform-2, equipped with spare part assemblies, and a replacement Control Moment Gyroscope contained in the Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure.

The STS-114 crew includes Commander Eileen Collins, Pilot James Kelly, and Mission Specialists Soichi Noguchi, Stephen Robinson, Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence and Charles Camarda.

For the latest information on NASA’s Return to Flight efforts, visit:

(end of general release)


*all times are Eastern

Launch-3 Days (Sunday, July 10)

  • Prepare for the start of the STS-114 launch countdown
  • Perform the call-to-stations (5:30 p.m.)
  • Countdown begins at the T-43 hour mark (6 p.m.)
  • Begin final vehicle and facility close-outs for launch
  • Check out backup flight systems
  • Review flight software stored in mass memory units and display systems
  • Load backup flight system software into Discovery’s general purpose computers

Launch-2 Days (Monday, July 11)

  • Remove mid-deck and flight-deck platforms (2 a.m.)
  • Complete preparation to load power reactant storage and distribution system (5 a.m.)
  • Activate and test navigational systems (7 a.m.)
  • Flight deck preliminary inspections complete (10 a.m.)

  • Enter first built-in hold at T-27 hours for duration of 4 hours (10 a.m.)

  • Clear launch pad of all non-essential personnel
  • Perform test of the vehicle’s pyrotechnic initiator controllers

Resume countdown (2 p.m.)

  • Begin operations to load cryogenic reactants into Discovery’s fuel cell storage tanks (3:30 p.m.)

Enter 4-hour built-in hold at T-19 hours (10 p.m.)

  • Demate orbiter mid-body umbilical unit (10:30 p.m.)
  • Resume orbiter and ground support equipment close-outs

Launch-1 Day (Tuesday, July 12)

Resume countdown (2 a.m.)

  • Final preparations of the Shuttle’s three main engines for main propellant tanking and flight (2 a.m.)
  • Begin filling pad sound suppression system water tank (3 a.m.)
  • Pad sound suppression system water tank filling complete (6 a.m.)
  • Close out the tail service masts on the mobile launcher platform

  • Enter planned hold at T-11 hours for 12 hours, 55 minutes (10 a.m.)
  • Begin star tracker functional checks (10:50 a.m.)
  • Activate orbiter’s inertial measurement units
  • Activate the orbiter’s communications systems
  • Install film in numerous cameras on the launch pad (11:55 a.m.)
  • Flight crew equipment late stow (2:50 p.m.)
  • Move Rotating Service Structure (RSS) to the park position (7 p.m.)
  • Perform ascent switch list
  • Fuel cell flow-through purge complete

Resume countdown at T-11 hours (11 p.m.)

Launch Day (Wednesday, July 13)

  • Activate the orbiter’s fuel cells (12:05 a.m.)
  • Clear the blast danger area of all non-essential personnel
  • Switch Discovery’s purge air to gaseous nitrogen (1:10 a.m.)

Enter planned 2-hour built-in hold at the T-6 hour mark (3:55 a.m.)

  • Launch team verifies no violations of launch commit criteria prior to cryogenic loading of the external tank
  • Clear pad of all personnel

Resume countdown (5:55 a.m.)

  • Chilldown of propellant transfer lines (5:55 a.m.)
  • Begin loading the external tank with about 500,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants (about 6:05 a.m.)
  • Complete filling the external tank with its flight load of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants (about 8:55 a.m.)
  • Final Inspection Team proceed to launch pad

Enter planned 3-hour built-in hold at T-3 hours (8:55 a.m.)

  • Perform inertial measurement unit preflight calibration
  • Align Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) tracking antennas
  • Perform open loop test with Eastern Range

Resume countdown at T-3 hours (11:55 a.m.)

  • Crew departs Operations and Checkout Building for the pad (12 p.m.)
  • Complete close-out preparations in the white room
  • Check cockpit switch configurations
  • Flight crew begins entry into the orbiter (about 12:30 p.m.)
  • Astronauts perform air-to-ground voice checks with Launch and Mission Control
  • Begin to close Discovery’s crew hatch (about 1:35 p.m.)
  • Begin Eastern Range final network open loop command checks
  • Perform hatch seal and cabin leak checks
  • Complete white room close-out
  • Close-out crew moves to fallback area
  • Primary ascent guidance data is transferred to the backup flight system

Enter planned 10-minute hold at T-20 minutes (2:35 p.m.)

  • NASA Test Director conducts final launch team briefings
  • Complete inertial measurement unit preflight alignments

Resume countdown at T-20 minutes (2:45 p.m.)

  • Transition the orbiter’s onboard computers to launch configuration
  • Start fuel cell thermal conditioning
  • Close orbiter cabin vent valves
  • Transition backup flight system to launch configuration

Enter estimated 40-minute hold at T-9 minutes (2:56 p.m.)

  • Launch Director, Mission Management Team and NASA Test Director conduct final polls for go/no go to launch

Resume countdown at T-9 minutes (about 3:36 p.m.)

  • Start automatic ground launch sequencer (T-9:00 minutes)
  • Retract orbiter crew access arm (T-7:30)
  • Start mission recorders (T-6:15)
  • Start Auxiliary Power Units (T-5:00)
  • Arm SRB and ET range safety safe and arm devices (T-5:00)
  • Start liquid oxygen drainback (T-4:55)
  • Start orbiter aerosurface profile test (T-3:55)
  • Start main engine gimbal profile test (T-3:30)
  • Pressurize liquid oxygen tank (T-2:55)
  • Begin retraction of the gaseous oxygen vent arm (T-2:55)
  • Fuel cells to internal reactants (T-2:35)
  • Pressurize liquid hydrogen tank (T-1:57)
  • Deactivate Bi-pod heaters (T-1:52)
  • Deactivate SRB joint heaters (T-1:00)
  • Orbiter transfers from ground to internal power (T-0:50 seconds)
  • Ground Launch Sequencer go for auto sequence start (T-0:31 seconds)
  • SRB gimbal profile (T-0:21 seconds)
  • Ignition of three Space Shuttle main engines (T-6.6 seconds)
  • SRB ignition and liftoff (T-0)


  • Commander (CDR): Eileen Collins
  • Pilot (PLT): James Kelly
  • Payload Commander (MS1): Soichi Noguchi
  • Mission Specialist (MS2): Stephen Robinson
  • Mission Specialist (MS3): Andrew Thomas
  • Mission Specialist (MS4): Wendy Lawrence
  • Mission Specialist (MS5): Charles Camarda


Wednesday, July 13

  • 5:45 a.m. Crew wake up
  • 6:15 a.m. Breakfast
  • *10:15 a.m. Television coverage of crew snack
  • 11:20 a.m. Weather Briefing (CDR, PLT, MS2)
  • *11:20 a.m. Don flight suits (MS1, MS3, MS4)
  • *11:30 a.m. Don flight suits (CDR, PLT, MS2)
  • *12:00 p.m. Depart for launch pad
  • *12:30 p.m. Arrive at white room and begin ingress
  • *1:45 p.m. Close crew hatch
  • *3:51 p.m. Launch

* Televised events (times may vary slightly) All times Eastern

SpaceRef staff editor.