Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Discovery rolling back from launch pad

Discovery is on its way back indoors after repairs to the crawler-transporter that is carrying the shuttle off its seaide launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.

The eight-tracked transporter began rolling off pad 39A at 10:48 tonight to begin a 3.4-mile journey back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, which the shuttle is expected to enter by 5 a.m.

The move had been scheduled to start early Tuesday but was stalled by a glitch with the crawler's leveling system. Technicians replaced a faulty transducer.

Discovery arrived at the pad Sept. 21 for its next and final mission. It's returning now to the 52-story assembly buildng so engineers and technician can continue inspections of the external tank's midsection, where cracks were found Nov. 5 in two vertical support braces called "stringers."

Shuttle program managers said today they would decide Dec. 30 if modifications to some stringers were needed before the tank could be declared safe to fly.

Discovery is targeted to launch no earlier than Feb. 3.

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