UPDATE 1-Shuttle Discovery lifts off for space station

* Discovery ferrying equipment, supplies to space station

* Flight marks one of final shuttle runs to outpost

* Discovery’s mission set to last 13 days

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Space shuttle
Discovery with seven astronauts aboard blasted off on Monday on
one of NASA’s final servicing missions to the International
Space Station.

With a brilliant flash of light and a thundering roar, the
shuttle lifted off at 6:21 a.m. EDT (1021 GMT), shattering the
pre-dawn calm around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Enjoy the ride,” shuttle test director Laurie Sally
radioed the crew minutes before liftoff.

The shuttle is carrying an Italian-built cargo hauler
filled with equipment, experiments, food and supplies for the
space station, which is expected to be finished in September
after 12 years of construction about 220 miles (355 km) above

The United States plans to stop flying its trio of space
shuttles after three more missions to stock the outpost with
spare parts and gear too big or bulky to fit on other
spaceships. The shuttles, which can carry about 50 tons to the
station’s orbit, are being retired due to cost and safety

NASA will then turn over cargo deliveries to two commercial
firms — privately held Space Exploration Technologies of
California and Orbital Sciences Corp of Virginia. Station
partners Russia, Europe and Japan also have vessels that can
haul cargo to the outpost.

Crew transport already is handled exclusively by Russia,
which flies its three-person Soyuz capsules at a cost of $51
million per seat.

The Obama administration is proposing to boost NASA’s
budget by $6 billion over five years to seed development of
commercial space taxis in the United States.

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, plans to debut
its Falcon 9 rocket next month on a demonstration mission.

Founder and chief executive Elon Musk, a multimillionaire
Internet entrepreneur, says it will take about three years to
develop a launch escape system so SpaceX’s Dragon capsule can
carry people.

Other firms, including Boeing and United Launch Alliance, a
joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are working on
space taxi development under NASA grants.

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(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Tom Brown and Chris

UPDATE 1-Shuttle Discovery lifts off for space station