Space Shuttle Discovery Moves Closer to Launch

Space Shuttle Discovery Moves Closer to Launch
Space shuttle Discovery rolled into the Vehicle Assembly Building after its move from Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3.The shuttle will be lifted and mated with the external tank and solid rocket boosters designated for mission STS-124 to the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA/Troy Cryder.)

The spaceshuttle Discovery moved a step closer to launch early Saturday as NASA engineershauled the spacecraft into a massive hangar to join its fuel tank and twinrocket boosters.

Discoverymade the short morning move from its processing building to the cavernous,52-story Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in CapeCanaveral, Fla., to prepare for its planned May 31 launch.

The shuttle?sseven-astronaut crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Mark Kelly, will deliverKibo - a massiveJapanese laboratory the size of a tour bus - to the International Space Stationduring a planned 13-day mission.

Engineers rolledDiscovery out of its processing facility atop a 76-wheel transporter at 7:17a.m. EDT (1117 GMT) and into the Vehicle Assembly Building at about 8:05 a.m.EDT (1205 GMT), where engineers will hoist it into a vertical position forexternal tank attachment. The move occurred two days earlier than planned dueto swift work by shuttle workers, NASA officials said.

?That?susually a pretty good sign when you can gain some time in the schedule,? NASAspokesperson Allard Beutel told ?They just didn?t encounter alot of problems and things have been going extremely well.?

The extratwo days will give shuttle workers more flexibility should they encounter anyunexpected issues later, Beutel added.

Discoveryis slated to roll out to its Pad 39A launch site at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT)on May 3, where shuttle workers will prepare it for a planned 5:02 p.m. EDT(0902 GMT) liftoff on May 31.

Duringtheir mission, Kelly and his crew will install the 37-foot (11-meter) Kibolaboratory, relocate its attic-likestorage module delivered on an earlier flight and swap out one member ofthe space station?s crew. Two spacewalks are planned for the mission, NASAsaid.

Discoveryastronauts will perform a full dress rehearsal of their launch day on May 9.

Kibo?sdelivery will mark the second laboratory added to the space station this year.Astronauts installed Europe?sColumbus laboratory during a February shuttle mission, with a March flightdelivering Kibo?s storage module and a Canadian-builtmaintenance robot.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.