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The space shuttle Discovery roared aloft early this morning on a supply mission to the International Space Station, carrying a load of scientific equipment in the Italian-built Leonardo pressurized cargo module.NASA TVWith STS-131 Commander Alan G. Poindexter and pilot James Dutton at the controls, Discovery lifted off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center right on time at 6:21 a.m. EDT. About eight and a half minutes later the main engines shut down as the orbiter slid into orbit.The only glitch in the mostly smooth countdown came about a half-hour before launch, when a range-safety system problem cropped up. It was quickly fixed while the count was in a pre-planned hold, and did not affect the liftoff and ascent.NASA TVWith seven astronauts on board, Discovery raised the number of spacefarers to 13. On Sunday a Russian Soyuz capsule docked with the ISS, delivering NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko to the orbiting facility where three more station crew members awaited them.Early Wednesday Discovery will dock at the forward end of the Harmony pressurized node, kicking off nine days of joint operations between the two massive spacecraft. In addition to moving 6,700 pounds of cargo out of Leonardo, and then refilling it with scientific samples, worn-out gear and other "down mass," the two crews also are scheduled to conduct three spacewalks to replace an ammonia-coolant tank and a gyro, and install a camera on Canada's "Dextre" robotic dexterous manipulator in preparation for a robotic repair this summer.Riding to orbit with Poindexter and Dutton were mission specialists Clayton C. Anderson, Rick Mastracchio, Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie D. Wilson, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Naoko Yamazaki, who is now the second Japanese woman to fly in space.
os99, STS131, Discovery, ISS, launch
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