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Thursday, 07 December 2006 06:04

NASA clears space shuttle for launch

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NASA has cleared space shuttle Discovery for launch on Thursday in the US, despite technical hitches and forecasts of bad weather.

Discovery is set for the first planned night launch in four years after two technical issues, one with the shuttle's electrical system and the other with an adhesive used in the ship's solid rocket boosters, were resolved. The shuttle is expected to lift off at 9.36pm Thursday local time (1336 AEDT Friday).

Concerns about clouds over the Kennedy Space Center and strong winds had put the launch in doubt, but NASA is pressing ahead as scheduled. The primary goal of the 12 day mission is to rewire the International Space Station's electrical and cooling systems. The seven astronauts are also delivering a 2-ton addition to the station and replacing one of the station's three crew members.

Since the Columbia disaster in 2003, NASA has preferred daylight launches to ensure good photography of the external fuel tank. Foam breaking off the tank at liftoff caused the damage that lead to the death of Columbia's seven astronauts.


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