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Night launch for Discovery on Wednesday


The crew members for the STS-119 mission pose for a photo after arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

WASHINGTON (BNS): After a string of delays beginning February 12, Space shuttle Discovery is finally set for a night launch on Wednesday.

Its seven astronauts arrived at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida in their T-38 aircraft Sunday at about 2:45 pm EDT in preparation of Wednesday’s launch.

“The official countdown clock for STS-119 began counting down from the T-43 hour mark at 7 pm Sunday evening leading to a planned launch at 9:20 p.m. on March 11,” NASA said.

Commander Lee Archambault will lead Discovery's crew of seven, along with Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata on mission STS-119 to the International Space Station.

The Discovery crew members are set to fly the S6 truss segment and install the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the International Space Station.

The S6 truss will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six.

The shuttle’s launch date was announced following Friday's flight readiness review, during which top NASA managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle's equipment, support systems and procedures were ready for flight.

The launch, originally fixed for February 12, was delayed four times due to problems with control valves, which channel gaseous hydrogen from the shuttle's three main engines.

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