Thursday, September 17, 2009

Discovery Ferry Flight Won't Start Before Weekend

The space shuttle orbiter Discovery won't begin its cross-country trek home to Kennedy Space Center before the weekend.

Technicians at Edwards Air Force Base in California expect Discovery to be mounted atop a modified 747 jumbo jet overnight and ready to fly by Friday morning.

But dynamic weather across he country prompted ferry flight managers to put off any attempt to start the planned two-day journey until at least Saturday morning.

Another weather briefing to update plans is scheduled for mid-day Friday.

A Saturday departure would put the shuttle on track for a low-flying Sunday afternoon cruise up the Space Coast, weather permitting.

At Edwards today, workers bolted a five-piece tail cone around Discovery's three main engines to reduce the aerodynamic drag of the piggybacked aircraft - the last major step before attaching the orbiter to the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Discovery landed at Edwards last Friday to complete a 14-day, 5.7-million mile supply mission to the International Space Station.

Poor weather around KSC forced NASA to wave off two landing opportunities on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 before deciding to touch down on the West Coast.

It was the 54th shuttle landing at Edwards in 128 missions.

IMAGE NOTE: The tail cone that improves the aerodynamics of the space shuttle for its cross-country ferry flight is positioned aft of shuttle Discovery's rocket nozzles prior to installation at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)

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