Discovery moved to launch pad for upcoming blastoff
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: November 9, 2006
Space shuttle Discovery journeyed to launch pad 39B overnight to begin final preparations for its nighttime blastoff December 7 on a delicate space station re-wiring mission.
The transporter is powered by 16 traction motors feeding from two 2,750 horsepower diesel engines and consumed over 100 gallons of diesel fuel in each mile of the trip.
The shuttle reached the pad entrance at sunrise under clear, crisp skies. The rollout crew activated the transporter's jacking and leveling system for the slow creep up the ramp of pad 39B. The crawler uses hydraulic lifts to keep the shuttle level during the ramp ascent by jacking up the front-end of the platform. Once on the flat pad surface, a precision laser guidance system helped align the platform over the pad pedestals.
Technicians called the platform harddown on the pedestals at 9:03 a.m. EST (1403 GMT), officially completing the rollout.
The methodical process of hooking up the crew module assess and hydrogen vent arms extending from the launch tower, as well as electrical, propellant, communications and other lines between the ground systems and launch platform will begin.
A hot-fire test for Discovery's auxiliary power unit system is scheduled later today. The APUs provide the hydraulic pressure needed to move the ship's wing flaps and main engine nozzles and deploy the landing gear. Then the gantry-like rotating service structure will be moved around Discovery.
In the coming days, the shuttle's payload bay doors to be opened and the mission cargo loaded aboard the orbiter. And a practice countdown with the astronauts is planned for next week.
Liftoff remains targeted for December 7 at 9:36 p.m. EST. It will mark the first night shuttle launch in four years.
For extensive details on the mission, see our preview story.