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December 19, 1999 - Flight Day 1 Launch Day

STS-103 Launch (Realplayer) 448Kb
Launch Images
STS-103 Launch Replays (Realplayer) 1374Kb
Johnson Space Center STS-103 Report # 01 - Sunday, December 19, 1999, 9 p.m. EST
Project Update - 12/19/99 8:00 pm EST
Kennedy Space Center Space Shuttle Status, December 19, 1999

Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery
Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site from Cocoa Beach Launch Site View from Cocoa Beach Launch Site view from Cocoa Beach
9:00 a.m. EST 10:00 a.m. EST 11:00 a.m. EST

A view of the Launch Site from Cocoa Beach on Launch Day, December 19, 1999.

The Space Shuttle Discovery was successfully launched at 7:50 pm EST, precisely on time for the start of the planned launch window. This beautiful and flawless evening launch marks the start of the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 3A.

With this launch time, the astronauts' days will start at around 10 am EST, and extend to around 2 am EST, daily. Rendezvous and berthing with the Hubble Space Telescope will take place from 1:45 pm to 11:00 pm on Tuesday, December 21. The EVA "space walks" will start at roughly 2:50 pm EST and last approximately 6 hours, starting on Wednesday, December 22. We are currently planning on reducing the number of EVAs from 4 to 3 in order to accommodate the delayed launch date. This will allow for returning the Shuttle in advance of the millenium rollover under all landing contingency cases.

The optional tasks on EVA day 4 involve preventive maintenance to the Hubble's external "space blankets". Some of these can be worked into the existing EVA days, or rescheduled for a later Servicing Mission. We have not seen, nor do we expect to see, any immediate performance degradation from Hubble's blankets, which help to maintain the internal temperatures of the observatory.

Kennedy Space Center Space Shuttle Status, December 19, 1999

MISSION: STS-103 - 3rd Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission
VEHICLE: Discovery/OV-103
LOCATION: On orbit
OFFICIAL LAUNCH DATE/TIME: December 19 at 7:50 p.m. EST
TARGET LANDING DATE/TIME: December 27 at about 5:24 p.m. EST
MISSION DURATION: about 7 days, 21 hours and 34 minutes; with 3 EVAs
CREW: Brown, Kelly, Smith, Foale, Grunsfeld, Nicollier, Clervoy
ORBITAL ALTITUDE and INCLINATION: 317 nautical miles/28.45 degrees

Work in progress: Space Shuttle Discovery and a seven-member flight crew lifted off from KSC's Launch Pad 39B on time at 7:50:00:069 p.m. today. The launch team worked no significant issues during the launch countdown and weather conditions were excellent at launch time. Discovery has embarked on its 27th space flight. Discovery and crew will rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday afternoon for a berthing of the spacecraft in the orbiter's payload bay Tuesday night. Three space walks are planned during this mission to accomplish planned Hubble servicing efforts. Discovery returns to earth Monday, Dec. 27 at about 5:24 p.m. EST.

The solid rocket booster recovery ships, Liberty Star and Freedom Star, deployed from KSC on Wednesday, Dec. 15. They are expected to arrive at Hangar AF with boosters in tow tomorrow at about 4:30 p.m. EST.

Johnson Space Center STS-103, Mission Control Center
Status Report # 01
Sunday, December 19, 1999 - 9 p.m. EST

In the final launch attempt available this year, Discovery and its seven astronauts blasted off tonight on the last human space flight of the 20th century to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope.

Under clear and starry skies at the Kennedy Space Center, Discovery lifted off on time at 6:50 p.m. Central time, lighting up the Central Florida coastline, to send Commander Curt Brown, Pilot Scott Kelly, and Mission Specialists Steve Smith, Jean-Francois Clervoy, John Grunsfeld, Mike Foale and Claude Nicollier on a two-day chase to catch up to and retrieve the 12 and a half ton telescope. Hubble was sailing over Eastern Africa at the time of launch.

Eight and a half minutes after the third and final shuttle launch of the year, Discovery was in orbit as its crew members began to configure shuttle systems for the planned 8-day mission. One rendezvous burn of the reaction control system jets is planned before the crew goes to sleep early Monday to fine tune Discovery's path to catch up to Hubble.

Technically, Hubble has been in hibernation since the loss of a fourth gyroscope on November 13 designed to enable the telescope to point precisely at distant astronomical targets for scientific observations. Hubble is in what is known as "safe mode", a state of dormancy in which the telescope aims itself constantly at the sun to provide electrical power to its systems. Hubble is scheduled to be captured by Discovery's robot arm around 6:40 p.m. Central time Tuesday.

Once the crew retrieves Hubble, it will be parked at the rear of Discovery's cargo bay so that two teams of space-walking astronauts can perform repairs and upgrades to its systems during three nights of space walks. The most vital of the space walks will occur on Wednesday night, when Smith and Grunsfeld replace all six of Hubble's gyroscopes and install devices to improve voltage regulation to the telescope's systems. Only three space walks are planned because the mission was shortened. Smith and Grunsfeld will conduct the first and third space walks, while the second will be conducted by Foale and Nicollier.

If all goes as planned, Hubble will be released back into orbit on Christmas Day around 5 p.m. Central time, with landing planned on Dec. 27 at 4:24 p.m.. Central time at the Kennedy Space Center.

The astronauts are scheduled to begin an eight-hour sleep period at 1:50 a.m. Central time Monday and will be awakened at 9:50 a.m. Central time to begin their first full day in orbit.

Discovery is orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 300 nautical miles, completing one orbit of the Earth every 90 minutes.

The next STS-103 mission status report will be issued shortly after crew wakeup Monday morning.