It's official: NASA has finally settled on a Wednesday night launch for space shuttle Discovery.
The flight to the international space station was originally set for mid-February, but was delayed four times because of concern over critical shuttle valves. Yesterday, senior NASA managers meeting at Kennedy Space Center put the valve issue to rest for Discovery and cleared the shuttle for flight.
Seven astronauts will ride Discovery into orbit, taking with them one final set of solar wings for the space station.
Launch director Mike Leinbach said spirits are much higher now than they were when the flight kept being put off.
"The mood is very, very upbeat," he said. With a firm launch date now, "everybody feels really good."
Managers had ordered extensive testing of the hydrogen gas valves after one broke during the last shuttle launch. The valves control the flow of hydrogen gas feeding into the external fuel tank during the 8-minute climb to orbit.
The broken valve didn't cause any problems, but NASA wanted to make certain that there was little chance of rupturing Discovery's downstream lines by a valve fragment and, if that did happen, it would not be catastrophic.