Discovery’s astronauts will remain in space at least one more day as high winds at the landing site forestalled today’s return to the Kennedy Space Center.
After carefully watching cross winds at the Shuttle Landing Facility and receiving real-time observations from Chief Astronaut Charlie Precourt flying weather reconnaissance in Florida, entry flight director Leroy Cain decided to wave-off today’s two opportunities to bring the crew home.
Weather conditions at KSC are not expected to improve over the next two days as a high-pressure system over the eastern seaboard is expected to remain in place producing windy conditions, possible low cloud decks, and rain in the vicinity of the shuttle’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway. There are two opportunities to land Monday at KSC or at the West Coast landing site at Edwards Air Force Base. Weather conditions in California are expected to improve over the course of the next two days, while KSC’s weather is expected to remain the same or degrade further.
There are two landing opportunities tomorrow in Florida and three in California. The second KSC and first Edwards opportunities are on the same orbit, six minutes apart. The first landing opportunity – to KSC – would see a deorbit burn of Discovery’s orbital maneuvering system engines at 12:44 p.m. with landing to follow at 1:51 p.m. The second opportunity is one orbit later with a 2:21 p.m. deorbit burn resulting in a landing at 3:28 p.m.
The first of the day’s opportunities to Edwards Air Force Base would see a deorbit burn at 2:18 p.m. with landing at 3:22 p.m. The second would have Discovery’s deorbit burn take place at 3:51 p.m. with landing at 4:58 p.m. and the final opportunity one orbit later with an engine firing at 5:28 p.m. resulting in a landing at 6:34 p.m.
It is highly unlikely that the crew would be asked to remain suited up for reentry for multiple landing opportunities. A reentry strategy will be developed overnight and through the morning tomorrow to take best advantage of landing conditions at the two sites.
Discovery’s crew will go to bed tonight shortly after nine and be awakened tomorrow at 5:17 a.m. to once again begin preparations for a return trip home.
The next status report will be issued at 7 p.m. today or as events warrant.
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