Shuttle Countdown Begins Today for a Targeted Wednesday Afternoon Launch

By Marc Boucher
October 31, 2010
Filed under

Discovery sits on the pad waiting for launch.

Kennedy Space Center – With the announcement that “all went well” with repairs and repressurization of the Shuttle by Steve Payne, NASA Test Director at this mornings briefing, NASA is now ready to start the countdown clock today at 2:00 pm. EDT for a targeted Wednesday afternoon launch at 3:52 pm EDT.

Payne said “we completed early this morning our flight pressurization of our on-orbit control systems tanks and main propulsion tanks, and all went well. That is behind us now. We resolved our remaining issues with our nitrogen quick disconnect poppet valve, turns out it was a ground support equipment valve upstream that was providing too much pressure and not allowing the poppet to close, we isolated that with another valve upstream of that and we were able to close the poppet and the leak is now behind us, so those issues are now resolved.

At 1:30 today NASA will perform the call to stations and then at 2:00 start the countdown clock which will be the T-43 hour mark. This afternoon they will begin final shuttle and facility closeouts and check out the backup flight systems.

As Payne ended his portion of the briefing he reflected a bit on the history of Discovery, “so far its been a remarkable flow for Discovery, uh she’s been an incredible vehicle and she caps a long and distinguished career with this particular flight, she’s always amazed us with everything she can do and we can expect this flight should be no different, and we’re looking forward to launch on Wednesday afternoon.

At this point weather is not considered an issue for launch on Wednesday with only a 30% chance of violating the constraints for launch. “Loud cloud ceilings and also um having some showers within 20 nautical miles of the shuttle landing facility” said Kathy Winters, Shuttle Weather Officer. If however the launch is delayed a day the weather outlook for Thursday is not looking good with a 40% chance of violating the constraints for launch. Should a further delay occur, moving the launch to Friday, the weather does get better.

Below are the launch countdown milestones and times, all time Eastern.

Launch-2 Days (Monday, Nov. 1)

Configure avionics systems for launch
Review flight software stored in mass memory units and display systems
Verify backup flight system software in Discovery’s general purpose computer
Activate and test navigational systems (3 a.m.)
Complete preparations to load power reactant storage and distribution system (5 a.m.)
Flight Crew Equipment early stow and flight deck preliminary inspections complete (6 a.m.)

Enter 4-hour built-in hold at T-27 hours (6 a.m.)

Clear launch pad of all nonessential personnel
Perform test of the vehicle’s pyrotechnic initiator controllers and range safety system

Resume countdown (10 a.m.)

Begin operations to load cryogenic reactants into Discovery’s fuel cell storage tanks (10 a.m.)

Enter 8-hour built-in hold at T-19 hours (6 p.m.)

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

Launch-1 Days (Tuesday, Nov. 2)

Resume countdown (2 a.m.)

Main engine avionics, pneumatics and controller checkout (2 a.m.)
External Tank feedline inspection/camera cleaning
Flight Crew Equipment stowage
Begin removal of pad ground support equipment

Enter built-in 13 hours, 27 minute hold at T-11 hours (10 a.m.)

Activate the orbiter’s communications systems
Lower engine support platforms, retract access platforms
External Tank Inspections
Complete Flight Crew Systems time critical stowage (middeck payloads)
Rotating Service Structure begins move away from Discovery to the park position (7 p.m.)
Perform ascent switch list
Fuel cell flow-through purge complete

Resume countdown at T-11 hours (11:27 p.m.)

Launch Day (Wednesday, Nov. 3)

Activate the orbiter’s fuel cells (12:37 a.m.)
Clear the blast danger area of all nonessential personnel
Switch Discovery’s purge air to gaseous nitrogen (1:27 a.m.)
Complete final walkdowns

Enter 2-hour built-in hold at the T-6 hour mark (4:27 a.m.)

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

Resume countdown (6:27 a.m.)

Chill down propellant transfer lines (6:27 a.m.)
Begin loading the external fuel tank with about 500,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants (about 6:37 a.m.)

Enter 2-hour, 30-minute built-in hold at T-3 hours (9:27 a.m.)

Perform inertial measurement unit preflight calibration
Align Merritt Island Launch Area tracking antennas
Complete filling the external tank with its flight load of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants (about 9:27 a.m.)
Final Inspection Team and Closeout Crew proceeds to launch pad

Resume countdown at T-3 hours (11:57 a.m.)

Perform open loop test with Eastern Range
Crew departs Operations and Checkout Building for the pad (12:02 p.m.)
Complete closeout preparations in the White Room
Check cockpit switch configurations
Begin Eastern Range final network open loop command checks
Flight crew begins entry into the orbiter (12:32 p.m.)
Astronauts perform air-to-ground voice checks with Launch and Mission Control
Begin to close Discovery’s crew hatch (1:37 p.m.)
Perform hatch seal and cabin leak checks
Complete White Room closeout
Closeout crew moves to fallback area
Primary ascent guidance data is transferred to the backup flight system

Enter 10-minute hold at T-20 minutes (2:37 p.m.)

NASA test director conducts final launch team briefings

Resume countdown at T-20 minutes (2:47 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 45-minute hold at T-9 minutes (2:58 p.m.)

Final launch window determination
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 3:43 p.m.)

Start automatic ground launch sequencer (T-9 minutes)
Retract orbiter crew access arm (T-7:30)
Start APU recorders (T-6:15)
Start auxiliary power units (T-5)
Terminate liquid oxygen replenish (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 retracting the gaseous oxygen vent arm (T-2:50)
Fuel cells to internal reactants (T-2:35)
Pressurize liquid hydrogen tank (T-1:57)
Deactivate bi-pod heaters (T-1:52)
Deactivate solid rocket booster joint heaters (T-0:50 seconds)
Orbiter transfers from ground to internal power (T-0:50 seconds)
Ground launch sequencer go for auto sequence start (T-0:31 seconds)
Booster gimbal profile (T-0:21 seconds)
Ignition of three space shuttle main engines (T-6.6 seconds)
Booster ignition and liftoff (T-0)

Preferred launch time: 3:52:13 p.m.

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