Oft-Delayed Shuttle Mission Finally Blasts Off for Space Station
The latest mission of the shuttle transport system finally got the green light to fly today.
The shuttle Discovery roared off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 7:43 pm EDT. The mission, designated STS-119, was originally scheduled to launch on 12 February, but a string of technical problems led NASA to postpone the countdown on several occasions. This time, everything worked as planned, and Discovery reached orbit about 9 minutes after liftoff.
The job of the STS-119 crew is to deliver a set of solar arrays to the International Space Station (ISS). The S6 array when installed will finish the Integrated Truss Structure, the so-called backbone of the ISS, bringing the orbiting science platform a giant step toward completion by enabling it to produce more solar energy. Discovery's crew will also conduct a number of experiments, including the Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local EXhaust (SIMPLEX), Shuttle Exhaust Ion Turbulence Experiments (SEITE), and Maui Analysis of Upper Atmospheric Injections (MAUI) tests.
The crew of STS-119 consists of Commander Lee Archambault, Pilot Dominic A. Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph M. Acaba, Steven R. Swanson, Richard R. Arnold, and John L. Phillips, as well as Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of Japan, who will join the ISS crew for Expedition 18. Current ISS astronaut Sandra Magnus will return with the shuttle to Earth.
The Discovery mission, the 28th shuttle flight to the ISS, is slated to last 13 days.