NASA Discovery Shuttle Launch


The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch on February 24 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its last flight before being retired as the US shuttle program winds down, NASA said Friday.

The shuttle launch was initially set for November but was scratched after leaks were found in the external fuel tank. An exhaustive review followed and engineers finally found ways to shore up the cracks in January.

The launch date was set weeks ago but NASA confirmed it after a flight readiness review meeting on Friday.

"During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle and station's equipment, support systems and personnel are ready," the space agency said in a statement.

The launch is scheduled for 4:50 pm (2150 GMT) on Thursday, February 24.

Six astronauts will be on board for an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. The crew will deliver a Permanent Multipurpose Module for extra storage and space for experiments.

"The PMM also carries Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space, which will become a permanent resident of the station," NASA said.

Discovery's launch will occur six hours after the planned docking of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 Johannes Kepler to the space station, the US space agency added.

The three US shuttles -- the other two are Atlantis and Endeavour are due to become museum pieces once the final shuttle mission takes place.

Endeavour is set for takeoff on April 19 and Atlantis is scheduled for June 28, after which the famed fleet will be retired


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