Rollover, the name itself is not all that awe-inspiring, the sight however; will take one’s breath away. The Discovery space shuttle emerged from its technological cocoon located in Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) at 7 a.m. EDT on Sept. 9, 2010 and was moved into the expansive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) a few hours later. The short, but slow trek allowed workers, many of whom have spent their entire careers servicing the orbiter, to pose with Discovery as she made this voyage.
Discovery’s trip to the VAB was delayed a day from Wednesday to Thursday, due to a broken water main. Workers found the break in a pipe located near the VAB and repaired it enough to allow second-shift workers to go to work later in the day.
“The pipe that broke was 50 years old,” said Allard Beutel, a NASA Public Affairs Officer. “The Kennedy team managed to have a work-around in place in under a day.”
Rollover is an important milestone on the road to flight. In this case, the occasion was all the more historic as it marked Discovery’s final trip to the VAB for this reason. The orbiter is flanked by workers that have worked to see that the shuttle is prepared for flight. They act as guides ensuring that there is no debris along the short drive that the transport vehicle takes from OPF-3 to the VAB. There were several stops along the way to allow photographs to be taken; marking the last time that Discovery is scheduled to move to the VAB in preparation for flight.
Once inside the VAB Discovery was connected to a crane that hoisted the 171,000 lb. space glider into the air. From there it is mated to a set of Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) and External Tank (ET) waiting for the orbiter’s arrival. Seeing this massive spacecraft hanging in mid-air alters one’s perceptions about the U.S. space program. It places a powerful spotlight onto the efforts required to put astronauts into orbit.
Approximately two weeks after the shuttle is mated the “full stack” is then ready to head to Launch Complex 39A. This marks the next phase in the path to launch – Rollout.
Discovery will deliver and install the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), the Express Logistics Carrier 4 and provide much-needed spare parts to the International Space Station (ISS). This will be the 35th shuttle mission to the space station. The crew of STS-133 consists of Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott.
Although STS-133 will mark the final time that Discovery is slated to take to the skies there had been talk that she could potentially ride to orbit on STS-135. However, if that mission is approved it is likely Atlantis will be the orbiter selected for that flight. Currently, STS-133 onboard Discovery is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:40 p.m. EDT.