Discovery rides the night sky into orbit

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Discovery has successfully lifted off on the first night launch in four years, starting the 12 day STS-116 mission to re-wire the International Space Station (ISS).

With the launch countdown catching up a three hour schedule hit – which led to the latest ever tanking in Shuttle history – the launch team earned special praise from NASA Administrator Mike Griffin.

**Over 2100mb of STS-116 onwards related presentions and mission documentation available on L2 **

**LIVE news updates on Discovery STS-116 – LAUNCH AND FLIGHT DAYS**

**LIVE news updates on Atlantis STS-117 (STS-317) Processsing Flow**

Stunning video captured her ascent into space, in what was a perfect launch. Imagery will now be evaluated to check for any foam liberation observed during the ride uphill, including unknown debris noticed at the time of ET seperation.

In what is being classed as a flawless launch, Discovery rose off Pad 39B – the last scheduled flight prior to modification for the Constellation program – on her way to orbit.

Amazing External Tank video was seen for the first time on a night launch, showing the OMS and SSME engines powering Discovery downrange. Also observed for the first time was the super-bright RCS (Reaction Control System) engine firings at the time of ET separation.

The day started out with a delay to RSS (Rotating Service Structure) rollback, given the difficulties in the 48 hour turnaround, following Thursday night’s scrub due to weather.

However, with a brilliant performance by NASA and contractor engineers and technicians, the three hour schedule deficit was turned around.

With a well behaved Discovery on the pad, the launch countdown proceeded, without any issue worthy of note for the final several hours towards launch.

That earned special praise from Griffin, who spoke of his pride to be involved with the best team in the world.

‘What you have seen here this evening is the successful accomplishment of the most challenging, demanding, technically state-of-the-art difficult thing that this nation – or any other nation – can do,’ said Griffin.

‘Today, this team accomplished it successfully.

‘When we started out today at the tanking meeting we thought that we maybe had a 30 percent or less chance of getting this vehicle out of town tonight. We were about three hours down on the count at that point and the weather was not looking good.

‘Weather is very difficult to predict, but the front was pushing through a little faster than predicted and it looked like it was going to turn good, rather than bad.

‘Mike Leinbach’s crack team of Shuttle processing guys thought that if they had a few hours to work it, they could get back on the timeline. So when we met at 9:45 this morning, they said ‘give us to 12:30pm and we’ll make the call’ – which is when they said they were back on track.

‘This is the best team in the world, and I’m just proud to be here with them.’

Super high quality (450meg) Launch Videos of STS-116 is now available on L2. Several HQ Engineering Videos also available.

**INFINITY: 10 minute STS-115 MUSIC VIDEO** –
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