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DEC 7TH,2006
NASA's Launch Blog - Mission STS-116

3:58 p.m. - Firing Room 4, our newest firing room, is being used today 
for our launch team, and will continue to be used for the rest of the 
shuttle missions through 2010.

3:55 p.m. - In the dining room of the astronaut crew quarters in the 
Operations and Checkout Building, the STS-116 astronauts are having a 
snack and posing for pictures before putting on their pumpkin-colored 
launch and entry suits. They'll receive an updated weather briefing shortly.

Everything is going well with the countdown. All the vehicle's systems 
are in good shape, and the flight crew and launch team are ready for 
liftoff tonight at 9:35 p.m. Weather is still a concern, but every few 
minutes, blue sky and sunlight peek through the clouds behind today's 
cold front.

3:50 p.m. - The Ice Team is proceeding to the zero level.

3:45 p.m. - The STS-116 crew visited Kennedy Space Center in November to 
participate in the four-day terminal countdown demonstration test, 
culminating in a dress rehearsal for launch.
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3:42 p.m. - It's gray and overcast at Kennedy Space Center as the cold 
front moves through. Weather is the only concern so far today. At Launch 
Pad 39B, Space Shuttle Discovery stands poised for liftoff, despite the 
gloomy skies.

3:40 p.m. - The Ice Team has arrived at the pad's 135 foot level to 
continue the inspection of the external tank.

3:25 p.m. - Good afternoon, and welcome to our live coverage of the 
launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-116 mission. Liftoff is set 
for 9:35 p.m. tonight, and the countdown is proceeding very smoothly, 
with no technical concerns.

The weather, however, is another matter: A cold front is passing through 
Kennedy Space Center today, and it's expected to bring low cloud 
ceilings, winds and possible isolated rain to the Florida spaceport. For 
this reason, the official forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron 
indicates only a 40 percent chance of favorable weather.

Further complicating matters, weather is iffy at all three of NASA's 
transoceanic alternative landing sites in Spain and France.

The following events took place before we activated the blog today.

At 12:30 a.m., the Rotating Service Structure was rolled back to its 
parked position, getting Discovery ready for tanking.

The Mission Management Team gave the go-ahead for tanking at 11:15 a.m. 
this morning, and fueling operations began at 11:33 a.m. with the 
chilldown thermal conditioning of the propellant lines and Discovery's 
internal plumbing. The chilldown prepares the systems for the shock of 
the nearly 500,000 gallons of super-cold cryogenic liquid oxygen and 
liquid hydrogen propellants that are pumped into the external tank. The 
umbilical vent line provides continuous venting of the external tank 
during and after loading of the volatile liquid hydrogen. The vent line 
is disconnected from the vehicle at first motion and retracts vertically 
downward to a stored position.

Tanking operations are complete, and the external tank is in stable 
replenish as of 2:29 p.m. The tank will continue to be "topped off" for 
the remainder of the countdown.

Inside the astronaut crew quarters in Kennedy's Operations and Checkout 
Building, the seven-member STS-116 crew received their "wake-up call" at 
11:45 a.m. and began their preparations for launch today. They will don 
their flight suits and depart for the pad early this evening.

The engine cut-off (ECO) sensors in the external tank were tested during 
tanking, and all four are performing as expected.

The MILA tracking station here on Merritt Island, Fla. has aligned its 
communications antennas with the launch pad, and initial communications 
checks with the Air Force-controlled Eastern Range have been performed.

The Final Inspection Team (also known as the Ice Team) reached the pad 
at 2:48 and began its inspection of the external tank. The team's seven 
NASA and contractor personnel assess the integrity of the thermal 
insulation on the external tank. They also look for ice and frost 
formations on the tank, measure temperatures on various parts of the 
vehicle, and assess debris concerns on the vehicle and pad that could 
impact launch or flight safety.

During the two-hour inspection, team members take the launch pad's 
elevator from the surface of the mobile launcher platform up to the 255 
foot level, and methodically work their way back down. Using binoculars 
and a telescope, the team can get a better look at hard-to-see areas. 
This launch marks the first use of a new ice detection machine.

The Orbiter Closeout Crew has arrived at the White Room on the end of 
the Orbiter Access Arm catwalk that connects to Discovery's crew module. 
They'll make the final preparations for the astronauts' arrival at the 
pad at about 6 p.m.

Again, welcome, and thanks for joining us today. Stay with us for 
continuing coverage.

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