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Wiring Work Delays Roll Over Milestone for Shuttle Discovery

A wiring issue has apparently delayed NASA's plan to rollthe space shuttle Discovery over to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)in Florida next week.

NASA space shuttle officials had hoped to roll Discovery outof its Orbital Processing Facility (OPF) and into the VAB on March 22, where itsexternal tank and solid rocket boosters already stand assembled.

But in a status report released Friday, NASA officials said additionalwork was needed to address wiring issues in Discovery's payload bay and landinggear doors. Shuttle officials now hope the orbiter will be ready to roll out ofthe OPF between March 26 and March 28.

Shuttle engineers apparently first spotted the wiring issueon Discovery's sister ship Endeavour. Fasteners were found to be chafing tubingaround the wires, leading technicians to inspect Discovery's wiring as well.Those inspections are now complete and engineers are expected to remove somewire trays aboard Discovery and install chafe protection in upcoming days, thestatus report stated.

Discovery's STS-114 mission is slated to be NASA's first shuttle to fly since the 2003 Columbia accident. The mission has a currentlaunch window stretching from May 15 to June 3.

Despite the wiring delay, STS-114 mission managers are stilltargeting that launch window, NASA spokesperson Jessica Rye told SPACE.com.It should take about seven days to attach Discovery to its external tank andsolid rocket boosters once the orbiter arrives at the VAB, she added.

NASA officials have repeatedly stressed that theirreturn-to-flight operations are driven by reaching mission milestones ratherthan adhering to a schedule. Discovery's roll over to the VAB, and subsequent rollout to the launch pad, are among the mission's next major milestones.

Other upcoming milestones include the hatch closure for Raffaello,a payload bay-mounted cargo container that Discovery will deliver to theInternational Space Station (ISS). That hatch closure is currently set formid-April, NASA officials said.

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com 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 Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. 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. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.