(11:55 PT) T+18 minutes. The Shuttle is now orbiting the Earth, and chasing down the International Space Station. It doesn't look like there were any problems with launch, but if any foam fell off and damaged the Orbiter we won't know until someone can take a closer look at the camera footage, as well as having astronauts check out the Orbiter once it's at the ISS. With this, I'll sign off for now. It's July 4, and I have a picnic to prepare for! I may post a little later if I have time.
(11:49 PT) Just a note-- the cameras mounted on the external tank and over the Shuttle have provided incredible views. Most of these will be available at various news sites and at NASA's website. Check them out. I have never seen the Shuttle roll over to the heads-up attitude before. That was very cool.
(11:48 PT) T+9 minutes. The external tank has separated and will drop back to Earth, burning up and disintegrating over the Indian ocean.
(11:46 PT) T+ about 8 minutes. Main engine cutoff. The external tank is empty, they have enough velocity to achieve orbit.
(11:44 PT) T+6 minutes. The Shuttle is rolling to a "heads-up" position. 10,000 mph, 66 miles up.
(11:42 PT) T+4 minutes. They are at Mach 10, 60 miles in altitude. By most definitions, they are now in space.
(11:41 PT) T+3 minutes. Mach 5 (go Speed Racer go!). They're already 50 miles up.
(11:40 PT) T+2 minutes. Solid rocket boosters have separated.
(11:39 PT) T+1 minute. Everything looking good. They passed Mach 1. Go at throttle up.
(11:38 PT) LAUNCH!
(11:37 PT) T-31 seconds. Still go.
(11:36 PT) Visors are down, the crew is ready. Shuttle on internal power.
(11:35 PT) The cap is pulling off the external tank; it's full of fuel and ready to go. T-2 minutes.
(11:35 PT) Engine gimbal test-- the main engines are moved around to make sure they can be aimed in flight. Test looks good.
(11:34 PT) T-4 minutes. Stilll looking good. Winds are gusty but within limits.
(11:30 PT) The launch tower access arm has swung away from the Orbiter. Everything looks fine.
(11:29 PT) The countdown clock has started up again, and we are at T-9 minutes.
(11:24 PT) NASA KSC just ran through the different teams that control the flight, and they have all said "go"! Looks like Discovery is clear to launch in about 12 minutes.
(11:13 Pacific time) As I write this, the Shuttle launch is set for 11:38 Pacific time, in less than half an hour. I will update this blog entry with news as it comes in.