Space Shuttle Discovery launches for mission STS-121

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Mission Insignia
Launch of STS-121

The Space Shuttle Discovery has been launched from Kennedy Space Center, on mission STS-121. This is 115th Space Shuttle Flight and the second since the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

The ascent was described as "smooth", however NASA engineers will be looking for traces of damage to the shuttle's heat shield that may be caused by foam falling from the external tank.

Launch occurred on schedule at 2:38 p.m. EDT (18:38 UTC), with the spacecraft reaching orbit 8 minutes later.

Around 3 minutes into the launch, an on-board camera showed numerous pieces of insulation foam break away from the fuel tank. However, they are not thought to have caused any damage to the shuttle. NASA's shuttle program chief N. Wayne Hale Jr. said the foam had fallen "after the time we are concerned about."

This is the first time an American manned spacecraft has added its own launch fireworks to Fourth of July celebrations in the United States.