Practice Countdown Under Way

The seven astronauts who will board Discovery in a few weeks to ride into space are rehearsing launch day today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will run through all the steps including strapping into Discovery’s cockpit and middeck, and radio checks. The practice, known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, will conclude just before the engines would ignite during a real countdown. Once the work is complete, the crew will return to Houston this afternoon.

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Practice Countdown Highlights Friday Schedule

Friday will feel like launch day for the seven astronauts of Discovery’s STS-128 mission. Almost. The crew will suit up in their orange launch-and-entry ensembles and climb into the Astrovan at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They’ll get taken out to Launch Pad 39A and technicians will help them into their seats. The countdown clock will roll backward and the astronauts will run through their launch-day protocols of radio checks and liftoff procedures. Then, it’ll all be over. The clock will stop and the crew will practice a few skills they hope to never need: emergency evacuation. Called the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, it’s a routine exercise for shuttle crews. It also caps the astronaut’s visit to Kennedy that began Wednesday. As for Discovery, the “Leonardo” supply module full of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station was being loaded into its payload bay Thursday. With launch targeted for Aug. 25, technicians at Kennedy will spend the next couple of weeks prepping the craft for its real liftoff.

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Launch Pad Training Day for Crew

Discovery’s seven astronauts will spend much of the day at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A reacquainting themselves with the pad’s myriad systems and emergency procedures. The crew, preparing to fly the STS-128 mission, also spoke with news media representatives in the morning before visiting the launch pad. Later today, Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Kevin Ford again will take the controls of the Shuttle Training Aircraft to practice landing the space shuttle. Friday’s schedule includes an all-up practice countdown that will involve the crew and their support team, the launch team at Kennedy and the Mission Control ascent team based at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Astronauts Arrive at Kennedy for Launch Practice

Rick "C.J." Sturckow, commanding the STS-128 mission of Discovery, led his crew of astronauts to the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday to begin three days of launch training. Flying in T-38 jet trainers, Sturckow and Mission Specialist Patrick Forrester landed first under cloud-strewn skies. Mission Specialists Jose Hernandez and Sweden's Christer Fuglesang landed in separate planes just afterward. Pilot Kevin Ford and Mission Specialists Nicole Stott and John "Danny" Olivas arrived a few minutes later. The training the next few days includes M113 emergency vehicle practice and simulated shuttle landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft. Discovery is being prepped at Launch Pad 39A for its part during Friday's countdown rehearsal, when the astronauts will be strapped in while they and the launch teams at Kennedy and the Mission Control Center in Houston, practice the complex choreography of liftoff.

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Crew Due Today for Practice Countdown

The astronauts who will fly Discovery to the International Space Station will fly to NASA's Kennedy Space Center today for several days of training that includes a complete launch rehearsal. Commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow, Pilot Kevin Ford and Mission Specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Christer Fuglesang and Nicole Stott are due at Kennedy later this morning in T-38 training jets. Soon after arriving, they are to train in the M113 emergency evacuation vehicles. Later, Sturckow and Ford will fly simulated shuttle landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft. Discovery is being prepped at Launch Pad 39A for its part during Friday's countdown rehearsal, when the astronauts will be strapped in while they and the launch teams at Kennedy and Mission Control practice the complex choreography of liftoff.

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Discovery Secured to Launch Pad

Space shuttle Discovery reached Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday afternoon following a slow drive on the top of the crawler-transporter from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The 3.4-mile rollout began at 2:07 a.m. and ended with the launch platform secured in place at about 1:50 p.m. The move took longer than expected because of weather conditions, including lightning. The crawler also had to pause occasionally so mud could be removed from its treads and bearings. Technicians will quickly ready the shuttle to host the crew’s countdown dress rehearsal known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT. Discovery’s seven astronauts plan to fly to Kennedy on Wednesday for the training activity which concludes later in the week with a complete practice countdown, minus liftoff, involving the crew and the launch team.

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Discovery Expected at Launch Pad by Noon

Riding atop the huge crawler-transporter, space shuttle Discovery is expected to arrive at Launch Pad 39A between 11:30 a.m. and noon and then to be secured to the pad by about 1 p.m. today. It has been making a slow move to the pad this morning from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Aug. 25 is the targeted launch date for Discovery’s STS-128 mission to the International Space Station.

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