Shuttle Discovery Moves Closer to Launch After Glitches
Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of Orbiter Processing Facility 3 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to head to the Vehicle Assembly Building (in the background) on Jan. 7, 2009.
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossman.

After an eight-hour delay to replace a tire and wait out rain showers, shuttle Discovery on Wednesday moved a step closer to its Kennedy Space Center launch pad.

Preparing for a Feb. 12 liftoff to the International Space Station, the orbiter was rolled from a spaceport processing hangar to the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building for connections to an external tank and solid rocket boosters, planned for today.

"It gets the spacecraft in position to support our targeted launch date," KSC spokeswoman Candrea Thomas said of the process called a "rollover."

A 76-wheeled, 107-foot long transporter carried Discovery about a quarter mile, a trip that began when the shuttle backed slowly out of its hangar just before 2:30 p.m. EST and ended less than an hour later.

Scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m. EST, the rollover was delayed when workers overnight found that Discovery's left outboard tire had lost pressure and needed to be replaced.

Later, technicians examined landing gear on the orbiter's right side to make sure an electrical cable was positioned properly.

Early afternoon showers forced the shuttle to remain sheltered, but soon after the rain cleared, workers rolled the 25-year-old spaceship into the assembly building.

Discovery and its mobile launcher platform are scheduled to move to launch pad 39A Wednesday.

The shuttle will deliver the final piece of the space station's central backbone, a 31,000-pound girder holding a pair of solar wings that will complete the station's power supply.

Space center workers on Wednesday loaded the truss segment into the canister in which the payload will be transported to the launch pad over the weekend.

On Friday, NASA managers and Discovery's seven-person crew are scheduled to brief reporters on the planned 14-day mission.

The crew, led by mission commander Lee Archambault, is expected to visit KSC for three days of training starting Jan. 19.

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