March 15, 2009

Space shuttle on target for launch

The U.S. space shuttle Discovery is ready for a Sunday launch opportunity as technicians repair a leaking gaseous hydrogen vent line, officials said.

The repairs were moving along smoothly late Saturday and the weather over Cape Canaveral, Fla., looked promising for an on-time 7:43 p.m. Sunday launch for Mission STS-119, in which a crew of seven is set to visit the International Space Station, launch controllers said.

I think we're in really good shape, said Mike Moses, chairman of the NASA Mission Management Team that reviewed the shuttle's readiness, while Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director, said the work to replace a suspect quick disconnect assembly on the launch pad would not delay the countdown.

We feel really good and we're really excited about launching tomorrow, Leinbach said late Saturday.

NASA weather forecasters were calling for an 80 percent chance of acceptable launch conditions, officials said.

Launch controllers said they would begin preparations to pump fuel and oxygen into the Space Shuttle's external tank at 10:18 a.m. Sunday.