STS-133 Rollover, One Small Journey – One Last Time

Discovery pauses on her way to the VAB under blue skies. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL – If one did not know better they would think that the day’s events would be rather boring. After all, the name of this event hardly does it justice -rollover. However, when one has the opportunity to view a rollover – it is unlikely they’ll forget it. The space shuttle Discovery emerged from its technological cocoon located in Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) at 7 a.m. EDT and was moved into the expansive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) a few hours later.

Discovery’s trip to the VAB was delayed a day from Wednesday to Thursday Sept. 9, due to a broken water main. Workers found the break in an iron pipe near the VAB and repaired it enough to allow second-shift workers to go to work later in the day.

“It was a dramatic, albeit a short-lived event,” 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 a very special milestone on the road to flight. One can actually watch one of these legendary craft slowly roll by in a stately procession. 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 on 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 will hoist 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 waiting for the orbiter’s arrival. Seeing this massive spacecraft hanging in mid-air alters one’s perceptions about space flight. It clearly puts into perspective the amount of effort that goes into the U.S. space program.

Discovery stops briefly along the way to allow workers to pose with their "girl." Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Within approximately two weeks the “full stack” is then ready to head to Launch Complex 39A in what will be the next milestone to flight – 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.

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 that Atlantis will be the orbiter selected for that flight. Currently, Discovery is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:40 p.m. EDT.

STS-133 Discovery Rollover in HD
STS-133 Discovery Rollover in SD
STS-133 Discovery Rollover for Small Screens

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