Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NASA prepares Discovery for August Launch

Running a few weeks behind schedule due to the delays of the recent Endeavour mission, the space shuttle Discovery is expected to depart the Kennedy Space Center's vehicle assembly building for her launch pad on Monday.

Riding a top a huge mobile launcher platform, the STS-128 space shuttle stack is expected to begin its first motion just after midnight on August 3. Approximately eight hours later, the transport is expected to be at Launch Pad 39-A as crews prepare Discovery for her late-August flight.

Moving at just 1 mph the entire three and one-half miles, the space shuttle crawls so slow so that vibration from speed does not cause the stack to move. As the crawler approaches the ramp up to the pad, the flat top of the platform remains level as hydraulic jacks rise and lower to keep the space shuttle level at her base.

Two days following roll out, the seven member crew of Discovery's STS-128 mission will arrive here at Kennedy for three days of launch pad drills and safety checks. Crew arrival is expected this Wednesday afternoon.

Launch of Discovery is expected for no earlier than August 25th -- a few days shy of the 25th anniversary of her first flight into space on STS-41D.

Inside the orbiter's payload bay will be the Leonardo Module, which will host a wealth of supplies, food, fuel and more for the six-person crew aboard the international space station.

Also inside Leonardo (one of two reusable Italian-built supply modules) will be the COLBERT or Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. The COLBERT was named for the Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, and will be built and used aboard the station for crew exercise.

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