Status Report

NASA STS-119 Report #01 Sunday, March 15, 2009 – 7 p.m. CDT

By SpaceRef Editor
March 16, 2009
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NASA STS-119 Report #01  Sunday, March 15, 2009 – 7 p.m. CDT

Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – Space shuttle Discovery blasted off Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center on the first shuttle flight of the year, lighting up the skies along the Eastern seaboard on a mission to deliver a fourth and final set of U.S. solar arrays that will put the International Space Station into full-power status.

Commander Lee Archambault, Pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata began their journey at 6:43 p.m. CDT. Less than nine minutes later, Discovery and its seven crewmembers reached their preliminary orbit and began to stow gear and prepare for the opening of the shuttle’s cargo bay doors. At the time of Discovery’s launch, the International Space Station flew 220 miles above Tasmania just south of the Australian continent.

The station crew, Commander Mike Fincke and flight engineers Yury Lonchakov and Sandra Magnus, watched the launch on a special television feed from Mission Control.

Wakata will become a station crew member Tuesday evening to begin a three-month stay shortly after docking. He will replace Magnus, who will return to Earth aboard Discovery to end her four-month stay in space. Wakata is scheduled to spend a little more than three months on the orbital complex.

Discovery took flight after engineers fixed a gaseous hydrogen leak in a vent line for the shuttle’s external tank that forced a postponement last Wednesday. Today, there were no issues as Discovery was fueled for the start of its 36th mission under cloudless skies.

During the 13-day flight, Swanson, Arnold and Acaba will rotate assignments on three spacewalks. The first, by Swanson and Arnold Thursday has them assist with installation of the 16-ton S6 truss element and its solar arrays onto the end of the station’s starboard truss.

Discovery’s crew will deliver a replacement distillation assembly for the station’s water recycling system, and help the Expedition 18 crew prepare for doubling of the station’s crew size later this summer.

The crew will begin a sleep period just after 1 a.m. Monday and awaken at 9:13 a.m. The next shuttle status report will be issued after crew wakeup, or earlier if events warrant.

SpaceRef staff editor.