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The last, last rollout of Discovery - SpacePod 2011.02.07

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Jason Rhian: For long time followers of SpaceVidcast, you'll remember that Discovery rolled to the launch pad first on September 20th back in 2010. Well, tonight they're going to go out again after they've done several repairs to the orbiter's external tank. Cracks were discovered during a launch attempt on November 5th and they've since been repaired and Discovery is ready to try one more time. I was here back in September when Discovery was rolled out to the launch pad for the first time. But I have to say, in a way I'm almost glad that some of the events that took place between now and then did happen because I was not able to get where I am right now. And as selfish as that sounds, I'm hoping our friendly Spacevidcast viewers see why. Well, I've been given a wonderful opportunity by one of my friends out at the press site. I can't mention any names, but they showed me the "sweet spot". Check this out! We are currently on level 16 looking down the length of the full stack of Discovery. As you can see, we're pretty close. Alright, when the engines for the massive beast that is the crawler-transporter fired up, these plumes of smoke shot up, so they're getting ready to move Discovery out to the launch pad. Ben always worries about audio and I think this is one case, and I really can't do a lot about it, that the sound of the crawler-transporter is so deafening that it's very hard to hear much of anything right now. I see that a lot of people down below are wearing earmuffs. I'm wondering if maybe, yeah maybe I should too. Oh well. The xenons have turned our way and you can tell that it has back-lit the orbiter in a way that is just unbelievable. I wish all you guys could be here to see this. It is an incredible sight. It's just an eye-watering sight. I'll be blind for some time to come, but that's just part of the job. Stephanie, this is the second time that Discovery has rolled out to the pad and I've got to tell you, it's a gorgeous night for this tonight. Where are we at right now? Where are we going with this? What's happening right now? Stephanie Stilson: Well, we've completed all the modifications on the external tank that were required. So now we're in normal operating mode where we're rolling out to the launch pad, and we'll go through all the systems checkouts to ensure we can validate that the pad systems are working together with all the vehicle systems. So, we're coming into what we would call almost a standard processing flow out at the launch pad. Jason: Okay, sounds great. Now, there are some exciting developments. You know, I've been out here for a while and covering some things and maybe you could expound on that. Tell us a little bit more about some of the really fun stuff that's going on for this roll out. Stephanie: Sure. Well, something new that we did for the last roll out and we did again this time, is that we allowed employees to bring their friends and family out. Normally if you're a badged employee you can come out here and watch roll out, that's not a problem. But you can't bring anybody who's not badged out with you. We came up with some car placards that allowed folks to do that and so it was overwhelmingly a good response from everybody. In fact, when we did it last time, I had so many people come up to me and say "what a great opportunity that we got to do this." So, we did it again, and I'll tell you what, there are 900 placards that were given out and I believe we gave them all out. Jason: So you're cleaned out now? Stephanie: Yes, and I don't know if you heard them earlier. I heard them hooting and cheering and clapping, so it was a great thing. Jason: Alright, take two for Discovery heading to the launch pad. Let's hope this time is the charm and on February 24th we'll see a lovely launch. This has been Jason Rhian for Spacevidcast.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 18 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 86
Posted by: spacevidcast on Feb 7, 2011

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Space shuttle Discovery was wheeled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on one of the massive crawler-transporters toward launch complex 39A -- and its final mission -- STS-133. This marks the second trip out to the launch pad for Discovery; the orbiter had to be taken back to the VAB for scans and repairs.
Discovery was first wheeled out to LC 39A on Sept. 20, 2010. The Nov. 5 launch attempt was aborted due to a leaky Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP). When engineers were checking out this problem, they discovered another, a section of popped up foam on the shuttle's external tank. Foam has been a concern ever since a briefcase-sized piece of foam led to the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003.
Further inspection showed that the cracks extended all the way down to the aluminum skin of the external tank. As engineers looked further more and more of these cracks were discovered around what is known as the "intertank" region. Engineers did what repairs that they could out at the launch pad. Then the large, orange tank was filled with the super-cooled fuel that powers the shuttle into orbit. When tanking occurs, the tank can shrink by as much as half-an-inch.
With the realization that this shrinkage could severely impact the cracks, 89 sensors were placed around this area to monitor the effect of fueling the external tank. To properly check any potential impact the tanking had, scans would need to be conducted and that meant a trip back to the VAB. So Discovery was rolled back to the VAB for X-Rays and other scans.
Once the area was given a thorough inspection, more cracks were found and further repairs were required. But during this time NASA had discovered what was causing these small cracks to occur and Discovery was set to head back out to the launch pad for her date with history.
"We fully expect that this will be the last time that Discovery will make this trip horizontally," said Allard Beutel, NASA's news chief at Kennedy Space Center. "The next time she travels -- it will be vertically -- to the International Space Station."
Discovery began its slow, methodical trek out to the launch pad at 8 p.m. EDT. The trip lasted some six hours, as the pondering crawler-transporter that hauls the spacecraft out to the launch pad moves at a blistering one mile an hour.
Discovery's final mission is a resupply flight to the International Space Station. The orbiter will ferry a modified cargo carrier, the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module along with much-needed supplies and the first human-like robot to fly into space -- Robonaut-2. The crew consists of commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott and Steve Bowen.
Bowen is a last-minute replacement for Tim Kopra, who broke his hip in a bicycle accident earlier this month.

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