Follow this link to skip to                                      the main content

Launch Coverage

Text Size

NASA's Launch Blog - Mission STS-116

NASA's launch blog was activated on December 7, 2006 at 3:25 p.m. EST.
NASA's launch blog was deactivated at 9:45 p.m. EST.

+ View All Launch Videos - First Attempt

NOTE: Refresh/Reload your browser every few minutes to view launch control center updates. All times are in EST unless otherwise stated.

9:45 p.m. - The team is still discussing the best options for another launch date. Please check the Space Shuttle Web site for the very latest.

9:37 p.m. - Space Shuttle Discovery is being safed. There's no word just yet on when the next launch attempt might be; weather at Kennedy tomorrow is expected to be worse than today, with little improvement Saturday.

9:36 p.m. - We have exceeded our launch window for today, and without clear, convincing evidence of favorable weather, tonight's launch attempt has been scrubbed.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

9:34 p.m. - 1 minute, 30 seconds of window remaining. We're still waiting on the weather.

9:32 p.m. - The team is still evaluating weather with about 3 minutes left in the window.

9:30 p.m. - T-5 minutes and holding. The launch team is using this hold to evaluate the weather. There are only 4 minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the window.

9:29 p.m. - Auxiliary unit pre-start is now in work.

9:28 p.m. - The Orbiter Access Arm is being retracted from Space Shuttle Discovery. In an emergency, it could be returned to its extended position in as little as 28 seconds if necessary. The White Room, which only hours ago provided access to Discovery's crew module, is at the tip of the Orbiter Access Arm.

9:27 p.m. - T-9 minutes and counting. The Ground Launch Sequencer (GLS) is now controlling the final phase of the countdown to Discovery's launch. The GLS will monitor approximately 1,000 different measurements to ensure they stay within their predetermined limits.

9:24 p.m. - The countdown clock will resume in about two minutes and proceed down to the T-5 minute mark, where it will hold, with the hope that the weather violation will resolve in time.

9:22 p.m. - Launch Director Mike Leinbach has completed his final launch poll. He wished Commander Polansky and the crew "good luck and Godspeed," with the hope that weather will improve and allow a launch tonight.

9:21 p.m. - NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding has polled the launch team and the team is ready to come out of the hold on time although the launch ceiling is still a weather violation. The countdown will go to the T-5 minute mark and hold there if weather is still not cooperating by then.

9:16 p.m. - There are about 10 minutes left in the T-9 minute built-in hold, and we are currently "red" for thick clouds in our forecast.

What do astronauts eat in space? Check out this video and find out.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

9:02 p.m. - Weather update: The transatlantic abort landing site at Zaragoza, Spain is "go," but the ceiling at Kennedy Space Center is currently too low, putting weather here into the "no-go" category for now.

The complex and challenging tasks of mission STS-116 are described in this video.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

8:52 p.m. - Launch Director Mike Leinbach just announced that the team is planning to launch at the preferred time of 9:35:48 p.m. this evening.

NASA Commentator Bruce Buckingham talks with Center Director Jim Kennedy about the STS-116 mission.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

8:45 p.m. - At our primary transatlantic abort landing site in Istres, France, weather conditions have improved and the site is green, meaning NASA can proceed with tonight's launch. Alternative sites at Moron and Zaragoza, both in Spain, are being closely monitored and may be choices as well.

8:41 p.m. - T-9 minutes and holding. No technical issues are being discussed, and only the weather has been an issue this evening. Our latest forecast shows the cloud ceiling should be high enough and the clouds thin enough to meet our launch criteria.

8:39 p.m. - The countdown clock is at T-10 minutes and counting, and we are just about a minute away from our last built-in hold at T-9 minutes. This hold will last about 45 minutes.

8:36 p.m. - With Discovery's crew safely strapped in and the vehicle poised for flight, the Closeout Crew is leaving the launch pad. Meanwhile, Discovery's onboard computer systems are being configured for the proper guidance parameters for tonight's launch time.

8:34 p.m. - The Closeout Crew has been given permission to leave the White Room, so they'll take the elevator down to the pad surface, then lock it into place at the ground level before making their way off the pad.

8:29 p.m. - The countdown has resumed. T-20 minutes and counting. The clock will hold once more at T-9 minutes. From now until the T-31 second mark, any of the launch supporters or operators can ask for a hold in the count.

8:27 p.m. - Weather has gone "green" in all areas -- meaning weather is favorable for a launch tonight. Clouds appear to be high enough and thinning out enough that they won't violate the ceiling rule.

8:24 p.m. - NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding is conducting his T-20 briefing, advising the team of any instructions they need to know for the remainder of the countdown.

8:19 p.m. - T-20 minutes and holding. This is a 10-minute built-in hold. The principal payload managers have been polled, and all are ready to support launch tonight. The landing director will check on the landing site and the SRB recovery ships will be checked to make sure they are on site and ready to support launch as well.

8:17 p.m. - Commander Mark Polansky is pressurizing the gaseous nitrogen system for the Orbital Maneuvering System engines, while Pilot Bill Oefelein is activating the gaseous nitrogen supply for the Auxilliary Power Units.

8:06 p.m. - Our launch time for this evening has been recalculated, and the preferred launch time for this evening is 9:35:48 p.m. This time will be fine-tuned once again during the T-9 minute hold.

The weather at the transatlantic abort sites is still being evaluated. At least one site must be available in order to launch.

8:03 p.m. - At T-26 minutes, 32 seconds and counting, the Eastern Range has completed its closed loop test, which is the path of the destruct signal that could be required in the event of an emergency. All systems look good tonight, with no problems being reported.

7:48 p.m. - At T-51 minutes and counting, the orbiter's hatch has been closed and latched for flight.

7:36 p.m. - Once Discovery's hatch is closed, the crew will begin checks to make sure the hatch is closed tightly.

After some discussion, the engineering team determined that the small piece of ice or frost discovered at the top of the external tank is not a danger.

"The configuration of that little, teeny piece of ice is not going to prohibit our launch tonight," said NASA Commentator Bruce Buckingham.

7:30 p.m. - Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters just briefed Launch Director Mike Leinbach on the weather situation. The ceiling is in the "red" for launch, but that's the only weather violation at the moment.

Did You Know?
On Flight Day 12, two microsatellites will be launched from Discovery's cargo bay. They'll measure the density and composition of the atmosphere in low Earth orbit.

7:17 p.m. - Now that the crew is safely aboard, the Closeout Crew is beginning cabin closeout procedures. Next, the crew module hatch will be closed and sealed for flight.

7:05 p.m. - During its inspection earlier in the countdown, the Ice Inspection Team found a very small piece of ice at the end of the northern-most vent of the two vents that carry the gaseous oxygen away from the external fuel tank's beanie cap. The vents are the two large white pipes emanating vapors near the top of the tank. The issue is being reviewed by mission managers and we'll let you know when we hear more.

7:04 p.m. - With the entire crew now seated inside Discovery, another countdown milestone has passed.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

7:00 p.m. - At T-1 hour, 39 minutes and counting, all is progressing well toward our liftoff at 9:35 p.m. All air to ground voice checks are continuing between the crew and the mission managers in the Firing Room. Cabin closeouts will begin once all seven astronauts are seated.

6:52 p.m. - There is still quite a bit of discussion about weather here at Kennedy tonight. Not only do launch managers have to ensure a safe launch, they also must make sure weather is safe in the unlikely event of a return-to-launch-site abort.

6:50 p.m. - The Ground Launch Sequencer has been activated and the Vehicle Assembly Building doors are being closed in anticipation of liftoff. One of the world's largest buildings by volume, the cavernous assembly facility covers a ground area of about eight acres and has a volume of approximately 129,482,000 cubic feet.

6:49 p.m. - The two solid rocket booster recovery ships, Freedom Star and Liberty Star, are on station in the Atlantic Ocean about 140 miles northeast of Kennedy Space Center off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla.

The ships will retrieve the boosters and return them back to the Cape in preparation for their trip by train to Utah, where they'll be readied for a future shuttle launch.

6:42 p.m. - As astronaut Bob Curbeam finishes getting ready to enter the orbiter, he's holding up signs for the TV camera inside the White Room. The first read "Go Colts," referring to the Indianapolis Colts football team. The second sign read "Hi Eva."

6:34 p.m. - Joan Higginbotham and Robert Curbeam will be the last two crew members to enter the orbiter.

6:30 p.m. - Earlier this afternoon, the crew module was configured by the Astronaut Support Personnel. Known as the "Cape Crusaders," they helped prepare the orbiter for launch today. For this mission, the team is composed of astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore, who is serving as Prime, and astronauts Michael (Bueno) Good, Kathryn (Kay) Hire, Jose Hernandez and Robert Behnken.

6:28 p.m. - Next up is Nicholas Patrick, serving as Mission Specialist 1.

6:25 p.m. - As the crew members are seated inside Discovery's crew module, they perform voice checks with the launch team in the Launch Control Center here at Kennedy, as well as Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

6:24 p.m. - Weather update: The latest forecast eliminates the chance of rain showers, but low cloud ceilings continues to pose a concern. The countdown is going very well otherwise, and the launch team will press on in hopes that the weather will improve as we approach the 9:35 launch time.

6:19 p.m. - Pilot William Oefelein is the next to enter the orbiter. He will be followed by Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang of the European Space Agency.

6:17 p.m. - The next crew member to board is Sunita Williams, who is Mission Specialist 5. She'll be staying behind to serve as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station when the STS-116 crew returns to Earth later this month.

6:12 p.m. - As each crew member is suited for entry, orange glow sticks are tucked into the shoulder pockets on their upper sleeves. Like the orange suits, the glow sticks are intended to give the astronauts a means of identifying their locations in the unlikely event of an emergency landing in darkness.

6:10 p.m. - The astronauts have specific seating designations for each launch. Often the seating assignments are changed for descent. There is room for up to four seats in the middeck. As Commander, Mark Polansky will be the first astronaut to board. He will have the forward-left seat on the flight deck.

6:07 p.m. - The STS-116 crew has arrived at Launch Pad 39B, where they are exiting the Astrovan and boarding the elevator of the Fixed Service Structure for the ride up to the 195-foot level. From here they will enter the climate-controlled White Room, make their final preparations and then board the shuttle.

5:54 p.m. - T-2 hours, 45 minutes and counting. Steve Lindsey was just dropped off at the Shuttle Landing Facility. Now the Astrovan will continue on to the Launch Control Center, where astronaut Ellen Ochoa, head of Flight Crew Operations at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, will exit the van and join her co-workers in the Firing Room for the remainder of the countdown.

5:47 p.m. - The astronaut convoy is en route to Launch Pad 39B, a journey that typically takes 20-25 minutes. The "Astrovan" will make two stops. At one stop they'll let out astroanut Steve Lindsey, who will be heading to the Shuttle Landing Facility to scout out the weather for tonight's launch. The second stop is in front of the Launch Control Center before heading out to the pad.

Steve Lindsey, the weather pilot for this mission, will fly both a T-38 and the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) at different times tonight, checking the conditions up to launch. The weather coordinator for this mission is astronaut Dominic Gorie.

5:45 p.m. - Right on time, the STS-116 crew just walked out of the Operations and Checkout building, cheered on by a crowd of employees.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

5:40 p.m. - T-3 hours and counting. There are two remaining holds left in the count at T-20 minutes and T-9 minutes.

5:30 p.m. - In ten minutes, we'll come out of the T-3 hour built-in hold and the countdown will resume. Darkness is beginning to fall at Kennedy Space Center, and the xenon lights out at the launch pad have been turned on, bathing Discovery and the mobile launcher platform in a brilliant white glow.

Did You Know?
This is the first flight of a space shuttle with an Advanced Health Monitoring System installed. + Read More

5:19 p.m. - Kathy Winters, launch weather officer, has given Launch Director Mike Leinbach the latest weather briefing. The winds have "gone red" -- out of limits -- but, in her words, they are only "bumping the constraint" and it is still possible that our weather could be clear enough to allow for launch later this evening.

5:09 p.m. - The weather seems to be improving, but it is still too close to call at the moment. The concerns at Kennedy are low cloud ceilings and showers in the launch area. Otherwise, the countdown is going rather well, with the forecast posing the only concern for now.

5:01 p.m. - In the astronaut crew quarters, the crew is receiving a weather briefing. It's still cloudy at the Florida spaceport, but with four-and-a-half hours left until launch, there is still time for the weather to become more cooperative.

4:48 p.m. - With its inspection complete, the Ice Team is leaving the launch pad and heading back to the Launch Control Center to give Launch Director Mike Leinbach a final report.

4:47 p.m. - NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman describes how Discovery is prepared for flight.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

4:39 p.m. - The lights have been turned on at the launch pad as the Ice Team is now progressing down to the pad surface. Meanwhile, a gray blanket of clouds has rolled in from the west.

4:35 p.m. - The Ice Team is reporting that the launch pad's water sound suppression system is in good condition and clear of debris.

4:30 p.m. - NASA Commentator Bruce Buckingham talks with STS-116 Payload Manager Debbie Hahn.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

Did You Know?
Ground teams have trained for nearly six years to make sure the mission timeline is as efficient and safe as possible.

4:25 p.m. - The countdown clock is holding at T-3 hours. This three hour built-in hold began at 2:40 p.m.

Discovery Revealed: Learn the history of Space Shuttle Discovery and its role in NASA's space program.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

How did the Discovery crew members' personal histories lead them to astronaut careers?
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

4:10 p.m. - NAVAIDS activation is complete.

The Discovery astronauts discuss mission STS-116.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

Did You Know?
This will be the 29th nighttime shuttle launch and the first since Nov. 23, 2002, when Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off on the STS-113 mission. + Read More

STS-116: Behind the Mission
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

3:58 p.m. - Firing Room 4, our newest firing room, is being used today for our launch team, and will continue to be used for the rest of the shuttle missions through 2010.

The Discovery crew enjoys a traditional meal before liftoff.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

3:55 p.m. - In the dining room of the astronaut crew quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building, the STS-116 astronauts are having a snack and posing for pictures before putting on their pumpkin-colored launch and entry suits. They'll receive an updated weather briefing shortly.

Everything is going well with the countdown. All the vehicle's systems are in good shape, and the flight crew and launch team are ready for liftoff tonight at 9:35 p.m. Weather is still a concern, but every few minutes, blue sky and sunlight peek through the clouds associated with today's cold front.

3:50 p.m. - The Ice Team is proceeding to the zero level.

The STS-116 crew visited Kennedy Space Center in November to participate in the four-day terminal countdown demonstration test, culminating in a dress rehearsal for launch.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

3:42 p.m. - It's gray and overcast at Kennedy Space Center as the cold front moves through. Weather is the only concern so far today. At Launch Pad 39B, Space Shuttle Discovery stands poised for liftoff, despite the gloomy skies.

3:40 p.m. - The Ice Team has arrived at the pad's 135-foot level to continue the inspection of the external tank.

The Discovery astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center four days before their scheduled launch on the STS-116 mission.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

3:30 p.m. - NASA Launch Commentator Bruce Buckingham opens televised coverage of today's countdown to launch.
+ View Video (Real)
+ View Video (Windows)

3:25 p.m. - Good afternoon, and welcome to our live coverage of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-116 mission. Liftoff is set for 9:35 p.m. tonight, and the countdown is proceeding very smoothly, with no technical concerns.

The weather, however, is another matter: A cold front is passing through Kennedy Space Center today, and it's expected to bring low cloud ceilings, winds and possible isolated rain to the Florida spaceport. For this reason, the official forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron indicates only a 40 percent chance of favorable weather.

Further complicating matters, weather is iffy at all three of NASA's transoceanic alternative landing sites in Spain and France.

The following events took place before we activated the blog today.

At 12:30 a.m., the Rotating Service Structure was rolled back to its parked position, getting Discovery ready for tanking.

The Mission Management Team gave the go-ahead for tanking at 11:15 a.m. this morning, and fueling operations began at 11:33 a.m. with the chilldown thermal conditioning of the propellant lines and Discovery's internal plumbing. The chilldown prepares the systems for the shock of the nearly 500,000 gallons of super-cold cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants that are pumped into the external tank. The umbilical vent line provides continuous venting of the external tank during and after loading of the volatile liquid hydrogen. The vent line is disconnected from the vehicle at first motion and retracts vertically downward to a stored position.

Tanking operations are complete, and the external tank is in stable replenish as of 2:29 p.m. The tank will continue to be "topped off" for the remainder of the countdown.

Inside the astronaut crew quarters in Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Building, the seven-member STS-116 crew received their "wake-up call" at 11:45 a.m. and began their preparations for launch today. They will don their flight suits and depart for the pad early this evening.

The engine cut-off (ECO) sensors in the external tank were tested during tanking, and all four are performing as expected.

The MILA tracking station here on Merritt Island, Fla. has aligned its communications antennas with the launch pad, and initial communications checks with the Air Force-controlled Eastern Range have been performed.

The Final Inspection Team (also known as the Ice Team) reached the pad at 2:48 and began its inspection of the external tank. The team's seven NASA and contractor personnel assess the integrity of the thermal insulation on the external tank. They also look for ice and frost formations on the tank, measure temperatures on various parts of the vehicle, and assess debris concerns on the vehicle and pad that could impact launch or flight safety.

During the two-hour inspection, team members take the launch pad's elevator from the surface of the mobile launcher platform up to the 255-foot level, and methodically work their way back down. Using binoculars and a telescope, the team can get a better look at hard-to-see areas. This launch marks the first use of a new ice detection machine.

The Orbiter Closeout Crew has arrived at the White Room on the end of the Orbiter Access Arm catwalk that connects to Discovery's crew module. They'll make the final preparations for the astronauts' arrival at the pad at about 6 p.m.

Again, welcome, and thanks for joining us today. Stay with us for continuing coverage.

Virtual Launch Control Center Team
Page Content
Lynda Warnock (InDyne, Inc.)
Live Updates/Layout
Anna Heiney (InDyne, Inc.)
Video Uploads/Captions
Charlie Plain and Elaine Marconi (InDyne, Inc.)
Quality Control/Publishing
Cheryl Mansfield (InDyne, Inc.)
Video Production
Aly Lee (InDyne, Inc.)
Video Capture/Editing
Chris Chamberland, Mike Chambers
and Gianni Woods (InDyne, Inc.)
Video QC/Oversight
Dennis Armstrong and Jeanne Ryba (NASA)

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center