Shuttle Discovery Moves Closer to Launch After Glitches

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. (Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossman.)

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

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

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

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

Scheduledto start at 6:30 a.m. EST, the rollover was delayed when workers overnightfound that Discovery's left outboard tire had lost pressure and needed to bereplaced.

Later, technicians examinedlanding gear on the orbiter's right side to make sure an electrical cable waspositioned properly.

Early afternoon showersforced 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 mobilelauncher platform are scheduled to move to launch pad 39A Wednesday.

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

Space center workers onWednesday loaded the truss segment into the canister in which the payload willbe transported to the launch pad over the weekend.

On Friday, NASA managersand Discovery's seven-person crew are scheduled to brief reporters on theplanned 14-day mission.

The crew, led by missioncommander Lee Archambault, is expected to visit KSC for three days of trainingstarting Jan. 19.

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Contributing Writer

James Dean is a former space reporter at Florida Today, covering Florida's Space Coast through 2019. His writing for, from 2008 to 2011, mainly concerned NASA shuttle launches, but more recently at Florida Today he has covered SpaceX, NASA's Delta IV rocket, and the Israeli moon lander Beresheet.