Hubble Servicing Mission 3A Update - Dec. 17-18 launch attempt

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 02:54 CET

We have a "scrub" - launch has been postponed until tomorrow. The reason being several weather related socalled "violations": Cumulus clouds, disturbed weather, thick clouds, triggered lightning, rain, and cloud ceiling/visibility.

We will again tomorrow monitor the events from the Hubble Servicing Mission ESA Monitoring Centre in ESTEC. The launch window will be open between 02:21 and 3:03 CET.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 02:35 CET NASA

Test Director Steve Altemus has announced that the countdown will not start again at the planned 02:38 CET. The T-minus 9 minutes hold will be extended in the hope that the weather situation will improve.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 01:58 CET

T-minus 9 and holding. A planned 40 minute hold is being performed. the time will among other things be used to monitor the weather to determine if the launch will be aimed at the first part of the launch window. The weather does not seem promising at the moment.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 01:47 CET

T-minus 20 and counting.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 01:38 CET

T-minus 20 and holding. A planned 10-minute hold is being performed.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 01:33 CET

The launch window has just been extended with four minutes. The window now stretches to as late as 03:33:32 CET. A launch between 03:29:22 and 03:33:32 CET would mean that Discovery will rendezvous with Hubble on Flight Day 4 as opposed to the originally planned Flight Day 3.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 01:27 CET

The countdown clock is ticking toward T-minus 20 minutes where a 10-minute hold is planned. A final built-in hold is scheduled at T-minus 9 minutes and will last for 40 minutes.

The main concern continues to be weather conditions in the local KSC area. The forecast is calling for thick low clouds and rain. It is currently raining at KSC and U.S. Air Force weather officials are not too hopeful for launching Discovery before the end of the 42-minute window. (Source: Spaceflight Now)

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 00:45 CET

The crew compartment hatch is being closed.

Update for Saturday Dec. 18, 00:10 CET The astronauts are now all aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Forecasters say that the heaviest rain passed over Kennedy Space Center around 23:30. "No technical issues are being addressed at this moment" is the message from NASA. But the weather remains critical. If the launch will be postpone, it has been confirmed that NASA will try again tomorrow. The launch window will in this case open approximately 23 1/2 hours after tonight's scheduled launch.

God Speed to you all from ESA Science!

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 23:28 CET

The seven astronauts have reached the launch pad are now preparing to enter the Shuttle. It is still the hope that the frontal system will move to the north before the launch in a little more than three hours.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 23:14 CET

The team of astronauts have now departed from their quarters and are on their way to the tower. The weather is still reason for concern.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 23:05 CET

The team inspecting the orbiter did not find any problems and the countdown clock is no longer on hold - T minus 2 hours 59 minutes.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 22:49 CET

Countdown is to resume in 15 minutes. The crew has just had a weather briefing, and are now putting on their flight suits. There is a weak frontal system over Florida, but there is some optimism that this front will move to the north. NASA officials anticipate that the weather situation will improve somewhat before launch. The launch window is 42 minutes and will open at 02:47 CET.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 22:10 CET

Discovery on Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39B is being checked for signs of ice build-up on the outside of the external tanks. Due to the wet weather there is risk for condensation and following ice build-up on the tanks. So far there has not been found any signs of ice. Indeed very little frost seems visible on the tanks. In the moment the tanks are continuously being topped off with more fuel as some of the very cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen boils away.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 21:51 CET

Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes left of the planned hold.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 21:00 CET

The external tank has been filled with liquid hydrogen and oxygen. The countdown has entered a two-hour planned hold at T-3 hours.

Update for Friday Dec. 17, 20:00 CET

No problems was found concerning the welding paperwork. The countdown is now ticking although weather conditions do not look favourable. NASA estimates that there is only a mere 20% chance for a launch tonight due to thick cloud layers and possibility of coastal showers. Preparations for the launch are nevertheless continuing: Discovery's external tank is now almost filled with more than 1,5 million liters of fuel - liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

The schedule for the astronauts looks like this (from Florida Today - times in CET):

17:00 - The crew wakes up to begin their day 23:02 - Astronauts depart for launch pad 39B 00:47 - Discovery's main hatch is closed for flight 02:47 - Launch