Discovery Wheeled to VAB

Discovery was wheeled over to NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for the arrival of Atlantis next Thursday. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. — Space shuttle Discovery, bereft of the components that allow her to fly and to maneuver in space, was moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) so that the Orbiter Processing Facility that the orbiter was occupying can be used to begin the decommissioning process of Atlantis when that shuttle returns from its STS-135 mission next Thursday.

Discovery has rolled to the VAB numerous times in the past, normally to be prepared for an upcoming flight, but this time was different. The shuttle had no Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) or Orbital Maneuvering System pods (those humps to either side of the tail fin) or the Reaction Control System, located on the nose of the spacecraft. 

“We need to free up the Orbiter Processing Facility for Atlantis,” Transition and Retirement Flow Director Stephanie Stilson. “The reason that Discovery is without these systems is that they needed to go to White Sands for part of the decommissioning. I normally don’t really like to have her in public like this, but it is an opportunity to see that some major work has happened on Discovery and I’m glad that the media and the public are paying such close attention to it.” 

Atlantis is currently slated to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at 5:56 a.m. EDT on Thursday, July 21. At that time she will begin the same process that Discovery underwent and that shuttle Endeavour is currently receiving. Discovery is set to fly to Washington D.C. some time next April.

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