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Shuttle Countdown on Schedule After Wind Delay

from Associated Press

The space shuttle Discovery’s countdown was running smoothly Saturday and back on schedule for Monday’s launch, after high wind stalled the countdown for seven hours during the night.

There were no reasons to believe the launch would not go as scheduled, said Robert L. Crippen, NASA’s deputy director of shuttle operations.

Launch preparations were stalled for seven hours after winds gusting to 40 m.p.h. slowed some of the final maintenance and testing on Discovery late Friday. Loading of liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel for the spacecraft’s electricity-generating fuel cells, scheduled to have started at midnight, was delayed until 7 a.m. Saturday.

Ronald L. Phelps, launch preparation test director, said the countdown schedule had a planned eight-hour hold. That hold was reduced to one hour, and workers cleared the launch pad and began loading propellants.

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Countdown Called Smooth

“Losing those seven hours really didn’t hurt us much,” Phelps said. Despite the problems, he said, the countdown has “been one of the smoothest” ever.

Discovery’s liftoff is set for 8:07 a.m. Monday. Forecasters predicted improving weather through the weekend with clear skies and calm winds by launch time.

Once in orbit, the crew of five will deploy a $100-million communications satellite and conduct scientific experiments during the five-day mission.

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Monday’s launch will be the third since NASA’s shuttle flights resumed after the hiatus that followed the explosion of the shuttle Challenger in January, 1986.

Practice Landings

Discovery’s commander, Navy Capt. Michael L. Coats, and his pilot, Air Force Col. John E. Blaha, practiced shuttle landings early Saturday in a training aircraft modified to handle like the shuttle. All of the crewmen later spent an hour flying T-38 jets.

Others on the crew are Marine Col. James F. Buchli, Marine Col. Robert C. Springer and Dr. James P. Bagian, a physician.


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