Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Discovery set for Wednesday move to assembly building

After nearly five months cooped up in its Kennedy Space Center hangar, Discovery is ready to emerge Wednesday morning for a short trip into the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The "rollover" is expected to be the last for Discovery, the shuttle fleet leader that is preparing for its 39th and final scheduled flight.

Launch to the International Space Station is targeted for Nov. 1, but an official launch date won't be set until a readiness review planned a week earlier, on Oct. 25.

Mounted atop a 76-wheeled transporter, the roughly 100-ton orbiter is scheduled to begin backing out of Orbiter Processing Facility No. 3 under armed escort at 6:30 a.m., weather permitting. A final readiness review is planned at 5 a.m.

Also if weather permits, NASA plans to park the orbiter outside the assembly building for several hours to give employees a chance to take close-up pictures before the program -- and for many contractors, their jobs -- come to an end.

Once inside, Discovery will be fitted inside a sling, hoisted in the air and transferred to a high bay where it will be mated with solid rocket boosters and an external tank.

Rollout to the launch pad is planned Sept. 21.

IMAGE: On Jan. 7, 2009, shuttle Discovery rolled out of Orbiter Processing Facility 3 at Kennedy Space Center to head to the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for a March 15 launch. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

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