Launch Coverage

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Welcome to NASA's STS-124 Launch Blog
Space shuttle Discovery lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 5:02 p.m. EDT on May 31, 2008, on a mission to deliver the Japanese Experiment Module's large pressurized laboratory and an accompanying robotic arm system to the International Space Station.

Video Gallery Video highlights from the STS-124 countdown are selected from televised coverage provided by NASA TV.
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Note: All times are given in Eastern Time unless otherwise noted.

5:15 p.m. - Now that space shuttle Discovery has begun its two-day pursuit of the International Space Station following a pristine countdown, we'll conclude today's launch coverage. Rely on NASA's shuttle Web site and NASA TV for the very latest on Discovery's STS-124 mission.

5:11 p.m. - Tank separation confirmed! Discovery is in its preliminary orbit.

5:10 p.m. - Booster officer confirms main engine cut-off and we're standing by for tank separation.

5:09 p.m. - Less than one minute of powered flight remaining for Discovery. It's a flawless ascent so far for the orbiter. Standing by for main engine cut-off and jettison of the external fuel tank.

5:08 p.m. - The main engines are swiveling to roll Discovery to the heads-up position to aid in its communications as it travels 10,000 miles per hour toward a Monday docking with the International Space Station.

5:06 p.m. - Four minutes into flight, Discovery has passed the point of "negative return." The orbiter is flying too far downrange and too high to return to the launch site in the event of an engine failure. However, all three main engines are performing perfectly, as are the auxiliary power units and fuel cells.

5:04 p.m. - Booster officer confirms a good solid rocket booster separation.

5:02 p.m. - Liftoff of space shuttle Discovery! Ganbatte kudasai -- best of luck to the International Space Station's newest laboratory!

5:01 p.m. - Now less than a minute away from liftoff of space shuttle Discovery and all systems are go. Discovery is now running on its own internal power, with the onboard computers running all the orbiter's critical functions.

4:59 p.m. - The gaseous oxygen vent arm, topped by the "beanie cap" that allowed venting of the external tank during the countdown, is being retracted away from Discovery.

4:57 p.m. - T-5 minutes and counting and the Ground Launch Sequencer is "go" for APU start. Discovery's auxiliary power units are being activated.

4:54 p.m. - In Discovery's cockpit, Pilot Ken Ham is flipping switches to connect Discovery's fuel cells to the essential power busses.

The orbiter access arm -- the walkway used by the crew to enter and exit Discovery -- is being retracted away from the vehicle. It can be returned to position within seconds if required.

4:53 p.m. - T-9 minutes and counting. The countdown has resumed and we are less than nine minutes away from liftoff of space shuttle Discovery on a two-week mission to deliver the Japanese Experiment Module's huge laboratory to the International Space Station. The ground launch sequencer is controlling the countdown from now through liftoff.

The computerized Ground Launch Sequencer has assumed control of the countdown, issuing the commands to put Discovery in its final launch configuration and monitoring about 1,000 critical orbiter functions to ensure they stay within limits.

4:48 p.m. - NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding has completed his poll of the various test conductors, including those responsible for the vehicle, the spacecraft, the range, the tracking stations, and mission control. Additionally, Launch Director Mike Leinbach has completed his poll of the shuttle engineering director, the cape weather officer and the director of safety and he has verified that everyone is ready to pick up with the countdown in about three minutes.

"Stand by for the greatest show on Earth," Commander Mark Kelly radioed down to Leinbach after receiving the final "go" for launch.

4:38 p.m. - There are 15 minutes remaining in the T-9 minute built-in hold. All eyes are on Launch Pad 39A as space shuttle Discovery stands poised for launch.

4:20 p.m. - Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters just verified with Launch Director Mike Leinbach that we are "green" on all weather constraints, meaning weather remains favorable for launch in about 42 minutes.

4:15 p.m. - Launch controllers are not tracking any issues that would prevent an on-time liftoff today. The Kennedy Space Center area is cleared for launch. The countdown clock is paused at T-9 minutes for today's final built-in hold.

4:10 p.m. - The specific target launch time today is 5:02:12 p.m., allowing a Flight Day 3 rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. At the time of liftoff, the station will be orbiting 210 miles above the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

4:08 p.m. - T-9 minutes and holding for 45 minutes and 12 seconds. This is the last built-in hold in today's countdown to launch of space shuttle Discovery on its STS-124 mission.

4:00 p.m. - The closeout crew is leaving Launch Pad 39A and heading to their fallback area. At this point, only the STS-124 flight crew remains at the pad. We're coming up on the T-9 minute hold at 4:08 p.m.

3:57 p.m. - T-20 minutes and counting. The next, and final, planned hold will take place at the T-9 minute mark.

3:55 p.m. - With Discovery's cabin vented and the vent valves closed, the closeout crew's work in the White Room is complete and they are preparing to depart the launch pad.

3:47 p.m. - T-20 minutes and holding. The next, and final, planned hold will take place at the T-9 minute mark.

3:40 p.m. - Astronaut Steve Lindsey, the head of NASA's astronaut office, is flying the shuttle training aircraft, or STA, for weather reconnaissance this afternoon. He'll evaluate the local weather and make judgments concerning visibility requirements in the event of an emergency landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility. He'll stay aloft through Discovery's launch, keeping in close contact with astronaut Mark Polansky, who is serving as weather coordinator today.

3:37 p.m. - T-30 minutes and counting. At 3:47, the countdown clock will hold at the T-20 minute mark for 10 minutes.

3:10 p.m. - Discovery's hatch is closed and latched for flight and the closeout crew is beginning cabin leak checks.

3:07 p.m. - T-1 hour and counting and everything continues on schedule toward today's liftoff of space shuttle Discovery at 5:02 p.m.

3:04 p.m. - The closeout crew has been given the "go" to close and latch Discovery's crew hatch.

2:50 p.m. - All astronaut comm checks are complete. Crew cabin and White Room closeout work continues.

2:32 p.m. - Now that all seven astronauts are seated and strapped in, the launch pad closeout crew is removing non-flight items from the crew cabin and preparing to close and latch the hatch shortly. Once the hatch is closed, the closeout crew will take several minutes to verify the hatch seal and check for air leaks, vent the cabin and close the cabin vent valves.

2:21 p.m. - The last crew member to board Discovery is Mission Specialist Ron Garan, who will take seat 4 in the back left of the flight deck.

2:12 p.m. - Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, who represents the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is taking his seat aboard Discovery. He'll ride into orbit in seat 6, in the center of Discovery's middeck.

2:08 p.m. - Mission Specialist Karen Nyberg is preparing to strap into seat 3, on the back right side of the flight deck, behind Pilot Ken Ham. Nyberg has the honor of being the 50th woman to travel into space.

2:07 p.m. - T-2 hours and counting.

1:55 p.m. - Next to board Discovery is Mission Specialist Mike Fossum. He'll be strapped into seat 5 on the left side of the middeck, closest to the crew access hatch.

1:50 p.m. - Pilot Ken Ham is taking his seat aboard Discovery. He'll sit in seat 2 on the forward right side of the flight deck, beside Commander Kelly.

1:42 p.m. - Mission Specialist Gregory Chamitoff is next to crawl through Discovery's hatch. He'll be strapped into seat 7, on the right side of the middeck, which is the lower floor of the cabin. During the mission, Chamitoff will take over as flight engineer and science officer aboard the International Space Station, relieving astronaut Garrett Reisman, who will return home aboard Discovery.

1:38 p.m. - Commander Mark Kelly is the first to enter Discovery. Seat 1, the commander's seat, is the forward left seat on the flight deck, which is the upper floor of the orbiter's crew cabin. Each astronaut goes through a series of voice checks after strapping in to ensure that the communications systems are all working properly.

1:30 p.m. - The astronauts have arrived at Launch Pad 39A, where space shuttle Discovery -- their ride to orbit and their home throughout their upcoming two-week mission -- stands ready to fly.

1:12 p.m. - Led by Commander Mark Kelly, the astronauts are departing the Operations and Checkout Building right on time. In the building's hallways and outside near the silver Astrovan, employees and other well-wishers have gathered to see them off. With waves and smiles, they're boarding the van for the 25-minute drive to Launch Pad 39A.

1:07 p.m. - T-3 hours and counting. The countdown has resumed and will continue until the next planned hold at the T-20 minute mark.

12:45 p.m. - All seven astronauts are gathered now in the suit-up room, where suit technicians are helping them into their bright orange launch-and-entry suits. Historically, this is an important room: astronauts have dressed for flight in this very suit-up room since the Apollo missions.

12:38 p.m. - The STS-124 crew just received a comprehensive weather briefing, covering weather at the launch site as well as alternate landing sites within the continental United States and the three transoceanic abort landing (TAL) sites. Kennedy weather remains favorable, and weather at the TAL site at Moron, Spain is currently "go." The astronauts will head to the suit-up room shortly.

12:20 p.m. - In their crew quarters inside Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Building several miles away from Launch Pad 39A, the seven STS-124 astronauts are getting ready to climb into their orange launch-and-entry suits.

12:00 p.m. - Good afternoon. NASA's official launch blog comes to you from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where space shuttle Discovery is poised for liftoff at 5:02 p.m. this afternoon.

The countdown is proceeding well and the launch team is not reporting any technical problems with Discovery. The weather forecast is favorable, holding steady at an 80 percent chance of good weather at launch time.

This morning at 7:38 a.m., about 500,000 gallons of supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen began flowing into Discovery's large orange external tank. The filling process, called "tanking," wrapped up right on time about three hours later at 10:36 a.m. as we entered stable replenish. This means the tank will continue to be topped off as propellants boil off throughout the countdown. These propellants will feed Discovery's three main engines during the eight-and-a-half-minute climb to orbit.

The countdown clock is holding at the T-3 hour mark and is set to resume counting at 1:07 p.m., a little over an hour from now. Stay with NASA's launch blog for the latest throughout the day.

Live Coverage Team
Blog Updates: Anna Heiney
Site Updates: Steve Siceloff
Video Uploads/Captions: Elaine Marconi
Quality Control: Cheryl Mansfield
Photo Gallery: Elaine Marconi
Video Production: Aly Lee
Video Capture/Editing: Chris Chamberland,
Michael Chambers and Gianni Woods