NASA: Shuttle Discovery launch countdown begins

Space shuttle set to launch Monday for 13-day mission to International Space Station

The official countdown has begun for Monday's scheduled launch of NASA's space shuttle Discovery.

The shuttle craft is set to liftoff Monday at 6:21 a.m. EDT on from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During its 13 days in space, Discovery's seven-member crew, including three women, will deliver some 17,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

"We're eager to get Discovery flying on Monday morning," NASA Test Director Steve Payne said today, adding that launch preparations are so far going as planned.

The shuttle is carrying new crew sleeping quarters for the space station's crew and science racks for the the its various laboratories.

Shuttle crew members are also slated to make three spacewalks, during which they will replace a gyroscope on the station's backbone, install a spare ammonia storage tank and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station's exterior, according to NASA.

After this mission, NASA has scheduled three more shuttle flights before the shuttle fleet is retired.

NASA shuttle missions are now likely to continue through the first or second 2011 quarter, well beyond the initial September shutdown date, according to a report issued last week by NASA's Inspector General.

The Inspector General's report did add, though, that the agency is still working to meet the initial shutdown date.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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