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Discovery launch preparations under way

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (UPI) Mar 9, 2009
Space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 astronauts spent the day Tuesday at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston conducting a simulated shuttle liftoff.

Space agency officials said preparation of the shuttle for its April 5, 6:21 a.m. EDT launch were also under way at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A in Florida where technicians are servicing the shuttle's hypergolic, or propellant, system.

NASA officials said Alan Poindexter will lead the STS-131 mission to the International Space Station, with Jim Dutton acting as the shuttle's pilot. Other crew members are astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Discovery will carry a multipurpose logistics module filled with science racks for the laboratories aboard the station, NASA said. The mission has three planned spacewalks, with work to include replacing an ammonia tank assembly, retrieving a Japanese experiment from the station's exterior and removing and replacing a rate gyro assembly on the station's truss structure.

STS-131 will be the 33rd shuttle mission to the station.

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