Shuttle Discovery blasts into space
The space shuttle Discovery roared into space late Friday night on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver supplies and a new crew member.
Discovery now has a Sunday rendezvous scheduled with the space station.
The 11:59 p.m. ET launch from the Kennedy Space Center came on the third attempt for Discovery.
The shuttle and its seven-person crew were originally scheduled to lift off early Tuesday, but that launch was cancelled because of poor weather, and a planned Wednesday morning launch was put off after an apparently faulty fuel valve was discovered.
Engineers now believe the hydrogen fuel valve is fine and that an indicator switch was faulty. Managers have agreed to a workaround plan if the switch acts up again.
Earlier this week, NASA said that Aug. 30 was the deadline to get Discovery into space. If it had not left by then, the mission could have been pushed back to October because there are other scheduled launches from Japan and Russia to the International Space Station.
Colbert treadmill among supplies arriving
U.S. Commander Rick Sturckow heads the Discovery crew, which will deliver almost eight tonnes of equipment and supplies to the station during the mission.
Also onboard the shuttle are pilot Kevin Ford, mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Danny Olivas, Jose Hernandez and Nicolle Stott, all from the United States, and mission specialist Crister Fuglesang from Sweden.
Olivas will perform three spacewalks on the mission, one with Stott and two with Fuglesang.
Stott will replace American Tim Kopra and join Canadian Robert Thirsk and the other four members of the space station crew. Kopra is scheduled to return to Earth with the rest of Discovery's crew.
Among the equipment making the trip into orbit is a treadmill named for U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert. Earlier in the year, Colbert encouraged viewers of his satirical TV program, The Colbert Report, to vote in an online contest to name a future space station room after him. Colbert won the contest, but NASA instead chose to name the piece of exercise equipment after him.
While it is in orbit, Discovery will mark the 25th anniversary of its first mission, which began Aug. 30, 1984.
Only six more shuttle missions remain before the program is ended.
With files from The Associated Press