Space Shuttle Discovery, facing final flight, moved to VAB (UPDATED)

Editor's note...
  • Corrected at 6:45 PM EDT: Rollout to pad 39A set to begin late Sept. 20.
  • Updated at 11:15 AM EDT Friday with shuttle VAB/rotation photo

Running a day late because of a ruptured water main, the shuttle Discovery was hauled from its processing hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building Thursday for attachment to an external tank and twin solid-fuel boosters. If all goes well, the orbiter will be moved to launch pad 39A overnight Sept. 20, setting the stage for launch Nov. 1 on a space station resupply mission.

The shuttle Discovery is backed out of OPF Bay 3 for rollover to the
Vehicle Assembly Building. (Photo: CBS News/William Harwood)

It will be the shuttle program's 133rd flight and the 39th and final voyage of Discovery before NASA's oldest shuttle is retired and put on public display, most likely at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

(Photo: CBS News/William Harwood)
During the short "rollover" from Orbiter Processing Facility No. 3 to the cavernous VAB, the transporter carrying Discovery was parked in the open for two-and-a-half hours to give Kennedy Space Center workers a chance to pose for pictures with the orbiter as it took the first step toward its final flight.

Late Thursday, the shuttle was hoisted by giant overhead cranes in the VAB and lifted for attachment to its external tank and boosters.

The shuttle Discovery is hoisted in the VAB for attachment to
an external tank and boosters.
(Photo: Spaceflight Now/Stephen Clark)
Shuttle program managers plan to hold a two-day flight readiness review starting Oct. 6. Discovery's crew -- commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott and spacewalkers Timothy Kopra and Al Drew -- plans to fly to the Kennedy Space Center Oct. 12 to review launch site emergency procedures and to participate in a dress-rehearsal countdown Oct. 15.

Senior NASA managers plan to hold an executive-level flight readiness review Oct. 19 to assess Discovery's processing and to set an official launch date.

If all goes well, Lindsey and his crewmates will fly back to Florida Oct. 28 for the start of the shuttle's countdown the next day. As of this writing, launch is targeted for 4:40:13 p.m. EDT on Nov. 1, roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries launch complex 39 into the plane of the International Space Station's orbit.

Assuming an on-time launch, Lindsey will guide Discovery to a docking at the space station's forward port around 1 p.m. on Nov. 3. The first of two spacewalks by Kopra and Drew is scheduled to begin around 10:35 a.m. on Nov. 5 to install an electrical cable, stow a failed ammonia pump module and to carry out other maintenance tasks.

The next day, Nov. 6, the astronauts plan to attach a pressurized cargo module to the central Unity module's Earth-facing port before enjoying a bit of off-duty time and gearing up for the second spacewalk.

A few hours after the switch from daylight time to standard time in the U.S. early Nov. 7, Kopra and Drew will begin their second spacewalk around 8:35 a.m. EST to carry out a variety of unrelated maintenance tasks.

If all goes well, Discovery will undock from the space station around 5:48 a.m. Nov. 10 and land back at the Kennedy Space Center around 10:43 a.m. on Nov. 12.

The shuttle Endeavour is scheduled for launch on the final currently planned shuttle mission Feb. 26, 2011. NASA is lobbying for a third and final flight by the shuttle Atlantis next June, but it is not yet clear whether funding can be arranged in time.