Shuttle Discovery in Orbit Again

The night launch went off without a hitch earlier this evening. In my ongoing fascination with NASA and the shuttle program, I decided to research two nagging questions that have been rattling around in my brain. The two questions are: 1) What is the story with those sparks you see below the shuttle’s engines just before ignition? 2) What does the term “Press to MECO” mean? Here are the answers.

1. At T-10 seconds, flares are ignited under the shuttle’s three main engines to burn away any residual hydrogen that may have collected near the main engine nozzles.

2. During the launch phase, the crew receives information from the ground concerning abort boundaries (points at which certain abort options become or are no longer available). Many of these calls are abbreviated to short phrases and acronyms. “Press to MECO” is one of these abort boundary calls and is defined as the point in the ascent at which the shuttle can still attain the minimum MECO targets (altitude and velocity) needed for reaching orbit after sustaining loss of one of the three main engines. “Single Engine Press to MECO” means that orbit can now be reached on only one main engine. In short – MECO refers to “Main Engine Cutt Off.”

12:00 AM CST – ASCENT FLIGHT CONTROL VIDEO REPLAY
12:02 AM CST – RMS CHECKOUT
01:00 AM CST – LAUNCH ENGINEERING REPLAYS
01:47 AM CST – DISCOVERY CREW SLEEP BEGINS
02:00 AM CST – FLIGHT DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS
09:47 AM CST – DISCOVERY CREW WAKE UP

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