Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Discovery Rollout Underway following Delay

Thunderstorms and lightning over the Kennedy Space Center this morning forced a two hour delay in the start of the roll out of the space shuttle Discovery to her ocean side launch pad, however muddy bedrock is slowing the ships progress.

Riding atop a massive mobile launcher platform a fixed to a crawler transport, the space shuttle stack for the upcoming STS-128 mission officially left the vehicle assembly building at 2:07 am EDT, this morning to begin its 3.5 mile journey to launch pad 39-A.

The multi-tread crawler has had to make a few stops early on due to thick mud and rock collecting within and outside of the tread. So technicians have had to clear the limestone rock and mud so that the tracks are not impacted from ease of movement.

The mobile launcher platform crawler weighs 8.8 million pounds alone; and 11 million pounds with the empty space shuttle Discovery riding a top this morning.

The transporter, according to officials here at Kennedy, "travels on eight tracked tread belts, each containing 57 tread belt "shoes". Each shoe is 7 1/2-feet long and weighs 2100 pounds." New shoes were installed in late-2004, replacing worn and cracked shoes.

The crawler way, which runs from the vehicle assembly building out to the launch pad, is 130 feet wide with river gravel about four inches thick on the straight away lanes. The rock measures 8 inches deep along the curves of the crawler way. Below this is another 7.5 feet of crushed stone and dirt which were compressed as the layers were built up.

Discovery is currently targeted for launch on August 25th, at 1:36 am EDT.

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