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Space Shuttle Status Report, Week Ending October 18, 2006
10.19.06
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Next on the NASA Space Shuttle Status Report: A mission to build on!

With the successful completion of a trip to the International Space Station, NASA is ready once again to fly into space. "Return to construction" of the International Space Station is under way, and the NASA Space Shuttle Status Report starts right now!

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Space Shuttle Atlantis glided to a smooth predawn landing on September 21st and is now back at Kennedy Space Center.

I'm Danny Zeno, NASA test director, and this is the Space Shuttle Status Report.

We'll have more on space shuttle Atlantis in a moment, but first:
NASA once again calls on Space Shuttle Discovery to fly to the International Space Station.

It's been just a few months since Discovery launched into space. Is the vehicle ready to fly again, and when will the countdown take place? Let's take a closer look.

The STS-116 astronauts and the processing crews at Kennedy Space Center are hard at work preparing for a December launch date. Discovery's external fuel tank is now attached to its twin, white solid rocket boosters. Soon, the "flight stack" will be complete when Discovery leaves the Orbiter Processing Facility and joins together with the tank and boosters inside NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building.

Discovery rolls to the pad in November.
Right now, the STS-116 crew is preparing too! The astronauts spent time this week at Kennedy Space Center for some important hands-on training. Led by Commander Mark Polansky, the crew examined the orbiter and even inspected the SPACEHAB module that will fly in Discovery's payload bay.

Flying alongside Commander Polanksy will be Pilot Bill Oefelein, Mission Specialists Robert Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, Christer Fuglesang, and Flight Engineer Sunita Williams.

The crew members will be back a few more times before they arrive in early December for the launch countdown. Speaking of launch, STS-116 is Discovery's 20th trip to the Space Station and marks the return to night launches. The STS-116 launch date is targeted for December 7, a week earlier than originally planned. This change allows for workers at both Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center to enjoy additional time with their families during the December holidays.

The official launch date will be set at the Flight Readiness Review in late November. Mission STS-116 continues the 'return to construction' series of missions for NASA. Space Shuttle Atlantis and its STS-115 crew completed the first of these missions in September.

Atlantis is now back inside the Orbiter Processing Facility. Post-flight thermal protection system inspections are nearly complete. This careful, post-flight examination of the orbiter's protective coating is one of the first things workers will do to prepare Atlantis for its spring flight on mission STS-117.

That's all the time we have for this week's Space Shuttle Status Report. Our next report will take a closer look at the payload that will be delivered to the Station.

For the NASA Space Shuttle Status Report, I'm Danny Zeno. Thanks for watching!

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