Saturday, July 25, 2009

Live at KSC: Discovery Set for Sunday Roll to VAB

The orbiter Discovery will be a step closer to a late-August launch Sunday after a scheduled move to Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building.

Preliminary analysis of more than 100 samples of foam from the shuttle's external fuel tank - already waiting in the VAB - show it is adhering to the tank properly.

The analysis will continue, but KSC workers were given the go-ahead to move Discovery at 7 a.m. Sunday, space center officials confirmed today.

The orbiter will be towed about a quarter-mile on top of a 76-wheeled transporter, then hoisted over a transom in the assembly building for mating with the tank and twin solid rocket boosters on a mobile launcher platform.

Repairs to the foam where core samples were pulled from the tank will be made after the orbiter is stacked.

Rollout of the shuttle to launch pad 39A is tentatively planned for Aug. 5, a bit beyond the usual one-week stay in the assembly building.

A launch is targeted for no earlier than Aug. 25th.

Before then, Discovery's seven-person STS-128 crew will visit KSC for several days of pre-launch training called the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test.

Discovery's tank underwent roughly a week of testing after Endeavour's showed shedding from an unusual area during its July 15 flight into space.

Inspectors pulled plugs of foam from that "intertank" area, which provides is a structural connection between the internal liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks.

So far, it does not appear that Discovery's tank is likely to shed like Endeavour's did, but the analysis continues.

IMAGE NOTE: On March 15, space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member STS-119 crew headed toward Earth orbit and a scheduled link-up with the International Space Station. Liftoff was on time at 7:43 p.m. (EDT) from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Discovery delivered the final pair of power-generating solar array wings and the S6 truss segment.

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