As the station sailed over the Pacific Ocean southwest of the border between Mexico and Guatemala, Discovery rocketed away from Launch Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center at 4:10 p.m. Central time en route to a rendezvous and docking Sunday afternoon.
Aboard Discovery were Commander Scott Horowitz, Pilot Rick Sturckow and Mission Specialists Pat Forrester and Dan Barry along with Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin. They will replace the Expedition Two crew, Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms, who were wrapping up their 155th day in space at the time of Discovery's launch.
Less than nine minutes after beginning its journey, Discovery settled into its preliminary orbit as the crew prepared to open the ship's payload bay doors prior to receiving the green light to begin orbital operations. This is the fifth shuttle mission of the year.
Discovery's crew will spend the next few hours unpacking equipment, setting up computers and conducting the first in a series of engine firings to refine the shuttle's orbit as it heads for the station. The crew will begin an eight-hour sleep period shortly after 11 p.m. and will be awakened at 7:15 a.m. Saturday for its first full day in orbit. That day will be devoted to preparations for Sunday's rendezvous and docking and eight days of joint operations with the Expedition Two crew, highlighted by the official transfer of command of the station from Usachev to Culbertson.
Aboard the station, Usachev, Voss and Helms have spent most of the past couple of weeks packing gear for the trip home aboard Discovery, and tidying up for the arrival of visitors about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Discovery is in an orbit inclined 51.6 degrees to either side of the Equator with all of its systems operating normally.