Liftoff! Discovery Finally Leaves Earth for ISS

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NASA’s space shuttle discovery launched successfully from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base at 7:43 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, under flawless skies and without a single significant complication, despite past issues that had postponed the launch no less than five times.

Less than a minute after leaving the launch pad, Discovery was traveling 365 miles (578 kilometers) per hour. Less than two minutes after that, the craft was speeding away at 1,100 miles (17,000 kilometers) per hour and climbing, toward the International Space Station.

All three main engines performed perfectly throughout Discovery’s flight. Eight minutes after launch,  the twin solid rocket boosters burned out and fell away as the craft was traveling 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) an hour. 

Now that it’s orbiting Earth, it will take Discovery about two days to catch up to the International Space Station. 

Early Sunday afternoon, Launch Director Mike Leinbach sent a “red team” to launch pad 39A to manually correct a valve issue that caused a drop in helium pressure. But following that minor adjustment, NASA encountered no issues to delay the launch. 

In fact, the weather improved as the day went on. Original weather predictions had been 80 percent favorable for launch, but by 6 p.m. that prediction had been upgraded to 100 percent. 

Discovery’s payload includes technology to boost the station’s power capacity in line with doubling the size of the ISS crew from three to six in May.

The set of solar arrays that the STS-119 crew will be bringing up includes two solar array wings, each of which has two 115-foot-long arrays, for a total wing span of 240 feet, including the equipment that connects the two halves and allows them to twist as they track the sun. Altogether, the four sets of arrays can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity – enough to provide power for more than 40 average homes. Since the three existing arrays can handle the majority of the station’s day-to-day operational and life support needs, the newest solar array will double the amount of power available for scientific research. 

The Discovery crew has been bouncing between NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, and the Johnson Space Center in Houston since late January; the first launch attempt was scheduled for early February. But four times, managers rescheduled the launch based on their concern following a hydrogen control valve malfunction on the shuttle Endeavour last fall. They wanted to rule out any similar glitches on Discovery.

Things were looking good for the fifth attempt on Wednesday — when skies would have been clear across much of the east coast — but a leak during refueling led to another cancellation.

Fueling of Discovery’s tank — with nearly 500,000 gallons of chilled liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants  — went off Sunday morning without a hitch. 

Discovery’s flight is STS-119, but NASA has actually flown 131 missions with shuttles. Under the Obama administration, the shuttle program is expected to retire next year.

46 Replies to “Liftoff! Discovery Finally Leaves Earth for ISS”

  1. Congratulations to the crew and NASA.

    Question: So the shuttle takes off and goes straight up vertically to get into zero g and orbit. How come gravity doesn’t make it fall back down?

  2. here is an extract from wikipedia to help you understand the basics of orbits. Please note OilsMastery that i will not be debating or even discussing the validity of gravitation, occult beliefs, and other nonsence. This is a Science based site.

    *snip*
    Understanding orbits

    There are a few common ways of understanding orbits.

    * As the object moves sideways, it falls toward the central body. However, it moves so quickly that the central body will curve away beneath it.
    * A force, such as gravity, pulls the object into a curved path as it attempts to fly off in a straight line.
    * As the object moves sideways (tangentially), it falls toward the central body. However, it has enough tangential velocity to miss the orbited object, and will continue falling indefinitely. This understanding is particularly useful for mathematical analysis, because the object’s motion can be described as the sum of the three one-dimensional coordinates oscillating around a gravitational center.

    *snip*

  3. yes oilsmastery, thats exactly what we are saying…once the shuttle goes into orbit, the laws of gravitation break down..at that point, the shuttle is flying on wishes and magic.

  4. Oils,

    You win. Your persistence has paid off and we can’t keep this charade called gravity going any longer.

    It was a good ride while it lasted, but we’ve been outwitted by this Oils fellow.

  5. yeah i agree. Im new here and have seen firsthand what this Oilismastery fellow is like. You win Oilismastery. Yep, i bow down to your superior theory ( which one is it again? ), and on behalf of the intelligently thinking people on Earth, we all bow down before you. You are correct, and everythinig we have learnt about gravity is plainly, obviously and completely false ( because you say it is…and lets be honest here, how could we ever compare to your brilliance).

    How can we compete against such superior knowledge, such blinding genius intellect? I hang my head in shame for doubting you OilisMastery.

    Please accept my apology.

  6. Serious question:
    If the shuttle can bring up solar arrays to power up to 40 homes, why can’t I have them in my neighborhood?

  7. Anne Minard: you said “Eight minutes after launch, the twin solid rocket boosters burned out and fell away as the craft was traveling 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) an hour. ”

    I’m sure you meant the liquid fuel main tank. The twin boosters fall off 2 minutes into the flight.

  8. bse5150: the arrays cost so much (millions) that it’s cheaper to pay the electric bill. Even over the entire lifetime of the arrays.

  9. There is a guy in my cousin’s neighborhood with three arrays put up above his house, all being pretty large (maybe 5′ x 15′?), but apparently the people living nearby are trying to get him to take them down; they say that it is an eyesore.

  10. Bill: You just have to shake your head and wonder at some people…
    The old adage is very true these days…..”no good deed goes unpunished”

  11. –Less than two minutes after that, the craft was speeding away at 1,100 miles (17,000 kilometers) per hour and climbing, toward the International Space Station.

    There seems to be a typo in the above text, in the value for miles.

    Very best of hard work for the Crew. Hope everything will go as planned.

  12. Hey oilsmastery watch that you don’t trip over walking down the road as that gravity thing will bring you down to earth with a great big bump.

  13. # OilIsMastery Says:
    March 15th, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    So when something goes into orbit, the laws of gravitation break down?

    No, they just make sure the something stays in orbit i.s.o. flying away.

  14. # OilIsMastery Says:
    March 15th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Chris,

    Make sure you find some oxygen molecules that defy the universal law of gravitation otherwise you won’t be able to breathe.

    What, the molecules we’re breathing are defying gravity and there’s more non-freaky oxygen molecules below ground? Life really is a miracle! So THATs how moles, badgers etc do it!

  15. Chris,

    Watch out for the moon, it might fall on you at 9.8 meters/second squared as required by the so-called “universal law” of gravitation.

    It IS falling in a continuous fashion, lucky for us it is also travelling too fast to ever reach Earth. Just like we’re travelling too fast to fall into the Sun.

  16. OIM:

    You do know that the shuttle doesn’t go straight up right?

    At 2 minutes, Altitude = 27.7 miles, 25.5 miles down range.
    4 minutes, 60.1 miles, 131.1 miles.
    6 minutes, 67.3 miles, 324.4 miles.
    8 minutes, 63.8 miles, 662.6 miles.
    8 minutes 29 seconds 65 miles, 776.8

    So really more sort of across than up.

  17. Trippy, why are you trying to provide Oils with facts. We all know he doesnt need facts. He is right, and the rest of the world is wrong, its as simple as that. His brilliant intellect outshines us all…Einstein is but a 3 year old to Oils. Only the words that come from his divine hand can be truth…any of these so called ‘facts’ that you, and anybody else in the world comes up with, are just part of the huge conspiracy against him….the brilliance of this man ( nay, this demigod! ) cannot be overcome.

    Oilsmastery is correct in every possible definition of the word.

    I have seen the light, and we will all do well to bow down before him, as i have done…and we need to bow, because thats the easiest way to pay homage to his greatness, and to keep ourselves from floating away into space….

  18. OilIsMastery wonders:
    “How come gravity doesn’t make it fall back down?”

    Let me try and explain….
    Gravity isn’t really a “force” that “pulls” things.
    As you, of all the people here, know well: the Earth is expanding.
    If you lift an object and let go, the surface of the expanding Earth rises to meet it, creating the illusion of the object falling – as you might understand if you can get your head around Galileo’s principle of relativity.

    Now, the Shuttle pushes off the surface of the already expanding Earth, adding its own velocity to the outward movement of the surface of the Earth – again, according to Galileo’s well established laws.
    I hope this sheds some light on the (admittedly difficult) physics of rocket launches, gravity and orbits for you.

    —–

    gosh, I hope all goes well for those astronauts. This mission has been plagued with too many hitches for comfort. I’m keeping my fingers crossed… and all other body parts that come in pairs…

  19. ioresult Says:
    March 15th, 2009 at 9:24 pm
    bse5150: the arrays cost so much (millions) that it’s cheaper to pay the electric bill. Even over the entire lifetime of the arrays.

    Your electricity is obviously too cheap, then.

    (And panels that don’t need to go into space aren’t that expensive.)

  20. “Less than two minutes after that, the craft was speeding away at 1,100 miles (17,000 kilometers) per hour”

    Something’s wrong with the numbers… 1,100 mph is not 17,000 kmh.

  21. Oils: “Watch out for the moon, it might fall on you at 9.8 meters/second squared as required by the so-called “universal law” of gravitation.”

    Another example that you don’t understand gravity.

  22. Feenix,

    “As you, of all the people here, know well: the Earth is expanding.”

    Ah, a sane person. Nice to meet you.

    “again, according to Galileo’s well established laws.”

    Galileo didn’t believe in gravitation.

    “The present does not seem to be the proper time to investigate the cause of the acceleration of natural motion [i.e., gravity], concering which various opinions have been expressed by various phiolosophers, some explaining it by attraction to the center, others to repulsion between the very small parts of the body, while still others attribute it to a certain stress in the surrounding medium which closes in behind the falling body and drives it from one of its positions to another.” — Galileo Galilei, physicist, 1638

  23. Luke Garratt,

    “It IS falling in a continuous fashion, lucky for us it is also travelling too fast to ever reach Earth.”

    The moon is falling away from the Earth at 3.8 cm/year thus violating the so-called “universal law” of gravitation.

  24. OillsMassuvstupidity unbelievable how you read things, but don’t have any intelligence to correctly interpret what you just read.

    Research what ultra-violet light does to oxygen. If you have any intelligence, you’ll figure out it isn’t defying gravity at all. Although, you probably won’t be able to figure out why there is so much ultra-violet radiation in the upper atmosphere…. so forget it.

  25. Each shuttle launch has becomes an agony.

    I hope NASA finishes this program as soonest and well before another catastrophe occurs.

    BTW, why do you guys keep fighting about stupid things all the time and wasting valuable space here? Can’t you be a little more serious?

  26. OilIsMastery Says:
    “Galileo didn’t believe in gravitation.”

    I had to re-read my comment, just in case God or Satan or one of their allies made me write something I didn’t mean to write – see, they are angry because i am skeptical about them, and they are trying to trick me all the time….
    …and I can cross my heart and look straight in your eyes and say: honestly, I swear, I never said or implied that he did.

    I was talking about his principle of relativity. It often amazes me how it is compatible with the most revolutionary 21st century Physics, such as the realisation that the Earth is expanding.
    I find it horrible that NASA perpetuates myths like Quantum Physics, Black Holes, and other Dark Stuff, while keeping advanced knowledge under wraps. What on Earth (or Mars, or Venus) is in it for them???!!!

  27. Any further information on the fate of the fruit bat? I imagine it made a hasty retreat once the launch sequence kicked off.

  28. “Does the space shuttle take off horizontally or vertically according to you?”

    That isn’t what I said though is it?
    Nor is it implied by what I said.

    “Jesper,

    “Something’s wrong with the numbers… 1,100 mph is not 17,000 kmh.”

    Basic arithmetic has never been Trippy’s strong point.”

    Those weren’t my numbers, they’re numbers from the article.

  29. “So really more sort of across than up.”

    Does the space shuttle take off horizontally or vertically according to you?

    Does Mission control’s ‘Roll, pitch’ call, shortly after clearing the tower mean anything to you?

    You can see it for yourself. It rolls, making the orbiter ‘inverted.’ It pitches over, heading downrange above the Atlantic.

    Now, you *could* have a flight profile of some other launcher that does a direct ascent to escape velocity, without going into a parking orbit first, but no manned spacecraft has ever done that.

    (Though I *think* an Apollo Lunar mission on the never-built Nova launcher would’ve operated that way. Watching *that* ascent would’ve been interesting, and not just because it would’ve been even bigger, louder, more powerful than a Saturn 5…)

  30. I notice that now that Nasa is being strictly careful about possible technical problems, the weather is tending to cooperate at the last minute. The moral: honesty and integrity pays off in high-risk endeavors. Being proud, hasty or impatient does not. Nature cooperates with man’s honest intentions, it is not just chance.

  31. Trippy,

    “That isn’t what I said though is it?
    Nor is it implied by what I said.”

    I never said my question was what you said. Nice dodge though. Afraid to answer the question?

  32. Oilismaster, will you please refrain from posting on here in future, you constant rambling is annoying the crap out of me

    dont ruin this excellent website with your stupid beliefs.. i personally dont care what you believe and i would appreicate it if in future you shut the f up

    Article after article i have to skip your comments, with the same rubbish in it

    just incase you didnt understand ill say it again.. SHUT THE F UP, NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU THINK

  33. # OilIsMastery Says:
    March 16th, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Luke Garratt,

    “It IS falling in a continuous fashion, lucky for us it is also travelling too fast to ever reach Earth.”

    The moon is falling away from the Earth at 3.8 cm/year thus violating the so-called “universal law” of gravitation.
    ————–

    It isn’t violating the laws of gravity – the moon is still “falling” around the Earth ie in orbit. The moon is speeding up due to tidal torque and because accelerating any orbiting body above that of the required orbiting speed increases their orbiting distance, the moon is thus receding annually.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbit_of_the_Moon

  34. I never said my question was what you said. Nice dodge though. Afraid to answer the question?

    Congratulations on neither reading, nor understanding my answer.

    The correct answer is neither – when the shuttle launches, It initialy launches vertically, but, a short time after lift off, it rolls and pitches so that it is no longer flying completely vertically. It does this so that it can accelerate to orbital velocity, something that it can not do if a lift off is vertical and remains vertical – all of this should be readily apparent from the data I posted when I made the original comment – that data represents the real flight data from this launch.

    Please, take your dishonesty elsewhere, I’m sure I’m not the only one tired of it by now.

    Oh, and for the record? If the question wasn’t what I said, or wasn’t anythign to do with anything I stated or implied, then it’s irrelevant to the discussion.

  35. Of course – you don’t have to take my word for it – here’s a photograph of the smoke plume from a dusk shuttle (Atlantis) launch:

    upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8a/Atlantis_launch_plume.jpg

    Here’s some more info:
    answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070627183009AAz0Txl

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