30 Aug 2009

Shuttle on its way to space station

1:45 pm on 30 August 2009

The US shuttle Discovery is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with seven astronauts on board.

Commanded by Rick Sturckow, Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon (NZ time) after two postponements caused by bad weather and a technical glitch.

Discovery, which entered orbit eight and a half minutes after launch, is due to arrive at the ISS on Sunday night.

The 13-day mission, the 30th dedicated to ISS maintenance, is scheduled to include three spacewalks to replace exterior science experiments, prepare the platform for the arrival of a new module next year, and to install a new ammonia storage tank and return the used one.

Ammonia is used to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators outside.

US astronaut Nicole Stott will be dropped off for a three-month stay and colleague Tim Kopra, who has been on the platform for the past six weeks, will be picked up.

Nasa plans an additional six sorties to the orbiting platform before retiring its re-usable spaceship fleet at the end of next year or early in 2011.