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article imageT-minus Now: Live Atlantis Launch Coverage on Digital Journal

By Carpenter S. Newton     Jun 8, 2007 in Science
Space shuttle Atlantis is cleared for launch this evening at 7:38 p.m. EDT. Join me right here on Digital Journal for live coverage of the liftoff. All you need to do in order to stay updated is refresh this article for the latest breaking events.
Carpenter Newton reporting live for Digital Journal –– Welcome to live coverage of today’s launch of space shuttle Atlantis. I will be updating this page as events transpire, so to keep up with the latest, refresh your browser.
For more information on Atlantis and mission STS-117, check out articles grouped to this live coverage. Included for your enjoyment are crew profiles, details of the mission, a personal story of what it’s like to witness a shuttle launch, and complete reports of everything that has went down this week with Atlantis.
Live coverage has ended and Atlantis has launched. Here is a transcript of the live coverage:
9:20 AM: Mission Management has given a GO to fueling of space shuttle Atlantis. Weather forecast continues to remain on 80% GO for 7:38 p.m. this evening.
9:50 AM: Fueling of Atlantis is underway. The shuttle’s external fuel tank, which contains two separate tanks inside, will be filled with 143,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, chilled at a temperature of -298º F. The second tank will be filled with 385,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen, cooled to -423º F. The fueling process takes three hours to complete and is scheduled to end around 1 p.m.
12:30 PM: Fueling of the external tank is approaching completion. Weather conditions are currently NO GO for Atlantis as light showers are passing through the area. These are expected to clear by launch time. Shortly, the countdown clock will hit T- 3 hours, at which time the clock will be stopped for a 3-hour built-in hold.
1:20 PM: Fueling of the external tank was completed about twenty minutes ago. The tank will be continuously topped off until launch and the closeout crew has been given the go ahead to return to the pad and complete their duties.
1:44 PM: The crew of STS-117 are now having lunch and taking a traditional pre-launch photo.
Photo: NASA
1:49 PM: The Final Inspection Team has been cleared to check the shuttle for ice and any debris that could affect launch.
2:00 PM: The weather status in Firing Room 4 at KSC continues to remain red (no go) due to showers moving on shore. This was expected by weather officers and conditions are expected to improve by launch time. The percentage chance of scrub still remains at only 20%.
The Final Inspection Team are working their way down the launch structure, taking pictures of the shuttle for inspection. The team wears bright safety orange suits in order to make them highly visible as a precaution.
2:10 PM: Checks of the Eastern Range Holdfire are beginning. These tests make sure the launch can be stopped in the event it becomes unsafe or there is a security issue.
2:14 PM: The Final Inspection Team has discovered a hanging bracket on the mobile launch platform that could be a safety issue. The team is consulting with the Firing Room for information on what to do about the bracket.
2:32 PM: NASA ships Liberty Star and Freedom Star are now 140 miles off the coast of KSC in the Atlantic Ocean ready to recover the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) that will fall from Atlantis after launch. The SRBs are saved and reused for future launches.
2:37 PM: Shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters is briefing the Firing Room about the latest weather conditions. Many of the criteria that had once been red (no go) have now turned green thanks to showers that have passed through the area. Currently on the pad, it’s sunny with a light breeze.
2:45 PM: Kathy Winters has just finished briefing the Firing Room. All launch weather criteria are now green and GO for launch.
3:00 PM: Here’s the latest view of the launch pad. As you can see, the worrisome weather that was causing no go conditions is quickly moving out of the area.
Photo: NASA
3:06 PM: STS-117 crew are now receiving their final weather briefing and will shortly enter the suit-up room. About half of the crew will suit-up while the other half will get weather information on potential emergency landing sites, should they be necessary.
3:21 PM: The astronauts are in the final stages of their suit-up activities. They appear in good spirits and are smiling and waving to television cameras present in the Operations and Checkout Building. Mission Specialist James Reilly just gave a thumbs-up. The suits the astronauts are wearing are pressurized and take about thirty minutes to put on. STS-117 crew are are slated to board Atlantis about 4:15.
Mission Specialist Danny Olivas gives the thumbs-up while suiting up. Photo: NASA
3:34 PM: The Final Inspection Team has concluded their inspection of Atlantis and are entering vans on the ground to leave the pad. Upon their return to the Firing Room, the head of the team will give a final report.
3:42 PM: The scheduled T- 3 hour hold has ended, and the countdown clock has resumed. The Final Inspection Team have left the pad to give their final reports.
3:47 PM: Right on schedule to the minute (and almost second), the crew of Atlantis have left the suit-up room and the Operations and Checkout Building. After exiting the building, the crew were greeted with cheers from KSC employees. The astronauts boarded the Astro Van, which they will ride in to the pad. Inside the van, they are hooked to a liquid cooling apparatus to keep cool in the hot pressurized suits.
3:51 PM: The hanging bracket the Final Inspection Team were concerned about has been identified as a non-issue and will not hamper launch.
4:04 PM: The custom-made Astro Van carrying the STS-117 crew has arrived at the launch pad. Along the way, the van made several stops to drop launch personnel off at their respective buildings, most notably fellow astronaut Steve Lindsey, who will be flying a T-38 training aircraft close to launch to examine weather conditions. The crew has went up the elevator to go to the “white room.”
The crew of Atlantis leaves for the launch pad.  Photo:  NASA
The crew of Atlantis leaves for the launch pad. Photo: NASA
4:12 PM: The closeout crew are preparing the crew to board Atlantis. Each closeout crew member has a number on their suit that designates a particular task they are in charge of. Currently, Mission Commander Rick Sturckow is putting glow sticks into transparent compartments on his launch suit should rescue operations be necessary.
4:21 PM: Commander Sturckow has boarded Atlantis. The closeout crew continues to prepare the rest of the crew for boarding.
4:31 PM: Mission Specialist Jim Reilly and Pilot Lee Archambault have boarded the shuttle. Communications checks are now ongoing. Weather continues to be of no issue as we are approaching three hours until launch.
4:43 PM: Mission Specialists Pat Forrester and Danny Olivas have entered Atlantis and have participated in their communication checks. Each astronaut has to complete three communication checks after boarding.
4:55 PM: As a test, the master alarm was tripped inside the shuttle and the volume adjusted so the Commander and Pilot could hear. Clayton Anderson has entered Atlantis and is completing communication checks. Anderson will replace astronaut Sunita Williams on board the International Space Station. Williams has been living aboard the ISS since December 2006.
5:00 PM: Mission Specialist Steve Swanson has boarded Atlantis, making him the final crew member to enter the shuttle.
5:09 PM: Another lengthy round of communication checks are currently ongoing between Atlantis, KSC and Johnson Space Center in Houston to make sure everything is working as expected. Shortly, the hatch will be closed and the astronauts will be sealed into Atlantis until mission completion.
5:36 PM: The closeout crew are preparing to close Atlantis’ hatch and leave the white room. All non-flight items are being removed from the shutle. The hatch is thoroughly cleaned before it is sealed and then pressure checked for any leaks.
5:39 PM: Hatch closure is proceeding now, about 15 minutes behind schedule.
5:52 PM: The Vehicle Assembly Building has been closed off for launch at KSC for safety. NASA ships that will pull solid rocket boosters (SRBs) from the ocean after the launch have been moved 7 miles away from the projected landing points of the SRBs. Astronaut Steve Lindsay has just taken off in a T-38 training aircraft to check out weather conditions around the Cape. This is standard procedure for every launch.
5:55 PM: The closeout crew has Atlantis’ hatch closed and pressurized. They are checking the hatch for any potential leaks.
Mission Commander Rick Sturckow being helped by the closeout crew into his launch suit. Photo:  NASA...
Mission Commander Rick Sturckow being helped by the closeout crew into his launch suit. Photo: NASA TV
6:00 PM: Launch Director Mike Leinbach just stated from the Firing Room: “We have a beautiful afternoon for a launch.” Weather continues to be a non-issue with all launch constraints and locations reporting green or GO.
6:14 PM: Mike Leinbach has been in conversation with Houston and it has been decided that there is no reason to aim for earlier or later in the launch window. Official launch time for Atlantis will be 7:38:04 p.m. EDT.
6:18 PM: The primary overseas landing site for this afternoon’s launch in the event of emergency is located in Istres, France. The backup will be Zaragoza Air Base in Spain. Both sites are reporting green (GO) weather conditions.
6:22 PM: As the crew completes another round of communication checks with Houston, we have entered a scheduled hold at T- 20 minutes and counting.
6:32 PM: The T- 20 minutes hold has ended. The hold was to ensure all programs necessary for launch were available in the Firing Room and that landing sites to support an aborted landing were available. The countdown continues to progress with no concerns, weather or technical.
6:35 PM: The closeout crew are now finishing their work and will be leaving the pad within the next ten minutes.
6:42 PM: KSC has reported should the shuttle need to perform a Return To Launch site landing, everything is all clear. Houston has released Atlantis for launch. We have now entered a scheduled hold at T- 9 minutes.
6:48 PM: Weather conditions have just changed to RED or NO GO. The Zaragoza international abort site is reporting showers and Istres in France is reporting fog. Launch Director Mike Leinbach is discussing options with his crew in the Firing Room.
6:54 PM: The closeout crew have left the pad, leaving the blast danger area surrounding the pad clear. The closeout crew will standby and remain available in the event of a scrub.
7:05 PM: The Istres abort landing site in France has returned to GREEN or GO status, which sets us back on track for launch this afternoon. The crew is making an adjustment to systems on the shuttle to lock in Istres as the main Transoceanic Abort Landing site. The T- 9 minutes hold has about 25 minutes remaining.
7:20 PM: We are still in the scheduled T- 9 minutes hold. Everything continues to look good for an on-time launch.
7:24 PM: Final readiness poll is now being conducted.
7:26 PM: Mike Leinbach has just wished the crew of Atlantis “Good luck and Godspeed.” Final readiness poll resulted in a GO. We enter terminal countdown in three minutes.
7:29 PM: We have entered terminal countdown and the scheduled hold at T- 9 minutes has ended.
7:31 PM: “Atlantis, mother nature has taken her shots, now we are ready to fly!”
7:32 PM: The orbiter access arm is pulling away from Atlantis.
7:34 PM: The firing chain has now been activated.
7:38 PM: ...3...2...1... Liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis to assemble the framework for the science laboratories of tomorrow!
7:41 PM: Solid rocket booster separation. Everything looking good.
7:43 PM: Atlantis has now reached the point of negative return, where it could not return to KSC in the event of emergency. Everything looking good.
7:45 PM: Flow of fuel to Atlantis from the external tank is equivalent to draining the average backyard swimming pool in 25 seconds.
7:47 PM: Main engine cutoff and separation of fuel tank.
7:50 PM: Applause in the firing room signals Atlantis’ smooth trip into orbit.
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