Orbiter: Discovery
Mission: STS-133
Payload: Leonardo
Launch: Nov. 1, 2010
Time: 4:40 p.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: Nov. 12 @ approx. 10:42 a.m. EST
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility

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Cdr Steve Lindsey

Pilot Eric Boe

MS 1 Al Drew

MS 2 Tim Kopra

MS 3 Mike Barratt

MS 4 Nicole Stott

Mission Status Center

By Justin Ray

Welcome to Spaceflight Now's live coverage of space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically; there is no need to reload the page.
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1630 GMT (12:30 p.m. EDT)
Engineers successfully re-positioned a wayward nut in the shuttle Discovery's aft engine compartment and finished bolting the orbiter to its external fuel tank early Saturday, keeping the ship on track for roll out to pad 39A Sept. 20 and launch on the ship's 39th and final mission Nov. 1.

Read our full story.
1500 GMT (11:00 a.m. EDT)
The space shuttle Discovery and its fuel tank officially were "hard-mated" together at 9:27 a.m. EDT, structurally securing the spaceplane in place and overcoming the bolt trouble of yesterday.

Further work is forthcoming over the next several days to integrate the orbiter, tank and boosters aboard the mobile launch platform, followed by an combined systems test to verify proper electrical connectivity between the shuttle elements.

Rollout to launch pad 39A remains scheduled to commence at 8 p.m. EDT on September 20.
1155 GMT (7:55 a.m. EDT)
NASA reports that technicians corrected the nut and bolt problem overnight. Work to attach Discovery with the external tank is underway again.
2205 GMT (6:05 p.m. EDT)
NASA managers have given permission to enter the shuttle's aft compartment while Discovery is vertical in this partially attached configuration to re-install the nut.

Read our full story.
2015 GMT (4:15 p.m. EDT)
The next engineering meeting is planned for 5 p.m. EDT to continue assessing plans and strategies to regain access into Discovery's aft engine compartment. At this point, no decisions have been made, NASA says.
1845 GMT (2:45 p.m. EDT)
Engineers tentatively believe they can send a technician into space shuttle Discovery's aft engine compartment to fix the attachment bolt and nut problem with the spacecraft still in its current condition of being partially connected to the external tank.

Officials are meeting right now to review the plan and determine if it can be implemented safely. If so, it would save NASA the time and effort of lowering Discovery back to the ground that engineers initially believed would be required to solve the problem.

Boroscope inspections performed earlier today confirmed there's no damage to the bolt or hardware. But the nut that fell into the aft compartment can't be reached and started onto the bolt from the outside, officials said.

Discovery's right-hand attachment point has been secured to the external tank. But the bolt problem has stalled the work to attach the left-hand side.

A spokesman says NASA has three days of contingency time set aside to deal with problems while Discovery is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. So this situation has not yet caused any slip to the planned September 20 rollout to launch pad 39A.
1705 GMT (1:05 p.m. EDT)
Engineers attaching the shuttle Discovery to its external fuel tank ran into problems Friday when an internal nut used to attach a separation bolt to the belly of the orbiter slipped out of position. Re-positioning the mis-aligned nut will require access to the shuttle's aft engine compartment, sources said, but it was not immediately clear what might be required to provide that access with Discovery not yet firmly attached to its external tank.

Read our full story.
1645 GMT (12:45 p.m. EDT)
Technicians working to mount the space shuttle Discovery onto the external fuel tank ran into trouble this morning when a nut on one of the main connecting bolts fell back in the orbiter's aft compartment. The nut is now out of reach.

An engineering review board is underway to determine what course of action to take.

Lowering Discovery back into a horizontal position may be required for workers to gain access to the cramped aft engine compartment and reposition the nut.

Options could include either sitting the shuttle atop its trailer-like transporter while technicians go inside the aft compartment or possibly returning Discovery to its hangar.

No decisions have yet been made. But the orbiter and tank mating operation is on hold.

NASA has multiple days of slack built into Discovery's pre-flight schedule. So this issue should not have an immediate impact on the planned November 1 launch date.
0955 GMT (5:55 a.m. EDT)
The crane has spotted the orbiter a matter of inches away from the attachment points on the external fuel tank. Technicians will get to work on the multi-hour task of connecting Discovery to the tank.
0850 GMT (4:50 a.m. EDT)
Ever so slowly and precisely, the orbiter is being lowered to slide between work platforms and the external fuel tank. There's very tight clearances for the crane operators to navigate. Once in position, Discovery will be lined up for mounting onto the tank.
0745 GMT (3:45 a.m. EDT)
Suspended high above the VAB floor, Discovery has been hoisted into the bay where the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters are stacked and waiting aboard a mobile launching platform.
0708 GMT (3:08 a.m. EDT)
Lifting of Discovery up and over the transom from the transfer aisle to High Bay 3 has begun.
0645 GMT (2:45 a.m. EDT)
Discovery has been rolled 45 degrees to the proper orientation to enter the assembly cell.
0345 GMT (11:45 p.m. EDT Thurs.)
Check out the comprehensive photo gallery showing Discovery going vertical.
0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT Thurs.)
The aft crane that helped rotate Discovery released its grip on the shuttle. The forward crane will perform the rest of tonight's work to hoist Discovery.
2340 GMT (7:40 p.m. EDT)
Spaceflight Now's Stephen Clark is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building photographing tonight's activities to turn shuttle Discovery upright and raise the orbiter into position for attachment to the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters.

Here's a sneak peek with some cellphone pictures of the action.
2300 GMT (7:00 p.m. EDT)
For the final time in its 26-year history of flight, the shuttle Discovery has undergone the majestic maneuver to stand vertical with the main engines facing Earth.

The next few hours are set aside for specialists to document the ship's heat shield before pressing onward with the lifting.
2243 GMT (6:43 p.m. EDT)
Discovery is beginning to go vertical. The Vehicle Assembly Building cranes have started to turn the spacecraft upright to point its nose toward the sky.
2240 GMT (6:40 p.m. EDT)
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2235 GMT (6:35 p.m. EDT)
The Orbiter Transporter System that hauled Discovery between the hangar and VAB this morning has done its job and driven away. This clears the center aisle of the assembly building for rotation of the shuttle from horizontal to vertical.
2208 GMT (6:08 p.m. EDT)
Shuttle Discovery has begun to take its ride in the lifting sling. The overhead cranes just lifted the spacecraft off of the trailer-like Orbiter Transporter System. In the coming hours, Discovery will be turned vertically and then hoisted over the transom into High Bay 3.
2000 GMT (4:00 p.m. EDT)
Some past and present video clips of space shuttle Discovery are posted in our Spaceflight Now+Plus archives for subscribers:

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1940 GMT (3:40 p.m. EDT)
The cranes have been bolted to the port and starboard sides of Discovery and ground workers have pulled the temporary access stairs away from the shuttle.
1855 GMT (2:55 p.m. EDT)
We are providing live streaming video coverage from inside the Vehicle Assembly Building as workers prepare to lift space shuttle Discovery.

The four-point lifting sling has been moved into position for attachment to Discovery this afternoon. This device will pluck the orbiter off the transporter, rotate it vertically and then raise the shuttle into the integration bay late tonight.
1510 GMT (11:10 a.m. EDT)
Check out the photo gallery showing Discovery leaving the hangar earlier this morning.
1450 GMT (10:50 a.m. EDT)
IN THE VAB! Moving a major step closer to its final spaceflight before retirement, shuttle Discovery has completed its road trip from the hangar to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery just rolled to a stop inside the cavernous building where the ship will be mated to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters over the next few days.

A metal "sling" is standing by to grab ahold of Discovery this afternoon, lifting the shuttle from the transport hauler that carried it from the hangar. A heavy-duty crane will rotate the spacecraft vertically, then begin the methodical process of hoisting the ship high into the rafters, over to the assembly bay and carefully lowering Discovery into position next to the awaiting fuel tank for attachment.

Once the completed vehicle is fully mated together, the comprehensive Shuttle Interface Test to check the electrical and mechanical connections between the orbiter, tank and boosters will begin.

Rollout of Discovery to pad 39A is targeted for September 20 starting at 8 p.m. EDT. That'll be followed by delivery of the mission payloads to the seaside complex on October 7 for insertion into the orbiter. A countdown dress rehearsal with the astronauts climbing aboard the shuttle is planned for October 15 to practice the final three hours of a launch day simulation.

Veteran shuttle commander Steve Lindsey will lead the STS-133 crew that includes pilot Eric Boe, mission specialists Al Drew, Tim Kopra, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott.

Discovery's mission carries the modified Leonardo cargo module that's flown numerous times to and from the space station. But it will be a one-way journey this time, becoming the Permanent Multipurpose Module affixed to the international outpost. In addition, the shuttle is bringing another external parts platform and a spare thermal cooling radiator for attachment to the station.

See the mission timeline.

The Flight Readiness Review meeting of senior NASA leaders to select the official launch date will convene on October 19. For now, plans call for the countdown to begin ticking October 29 and liftoff to occur on November 1 at 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT).

Landing back at Kennedy Space Center after an 11-day mission is targeted for November 12 around 10:43 a.m. EST (1543 GMT).
1436 GMT (10:36 a.m. EDT)
Discovery is rolling through the VAB doorway with an escort of Kennedy Space Center employees.
1425 GMT (10:25 a.m. EDT)
The road trip to the Vehicle Assembly Building has resumed.
1415 GMT (10:15 a.m. EDT)
This is the 41st time Discovery has traveled into the landmark Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked for launch. In addition to its 39 missions, the orbiter took the trip twice for STS-41D in 1984 and STS-39 in 1991. Those flights had reached the launch pad only to retreat back to the hangar to fix technical issues and then repeat the assembly process all over again.
1245 GMT (8:45 a.m. EDT)
Preparations for the upcoming mission began when Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center on April 20 to conclude the STS-131 flight that delivered tons of new research equipment, life-supporting provisions and spare hardware to stock the shelves of the International Space Station.

The shuttle was towed from the runway to Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3, as the pre-flight campaign for STS-133 commenced with post-mission deservicing work, safing the shuttle systems, offloading residual fuels and removing the main engines.

Through late spring and summer the ship underwent extensive but routine testing and the standard preparations for its final trip to space. A new set of main engines was installed, the astronauts visited for a close-up look at their ship and by the end of August the payload bay doors were closed as workers finished buttoning up the orbiter to roll out of the hangar.

In just the past week, ground teams completed closeouts of the spacecraft's various compartments, shut the crew module hatch, pressurized the landing gear tires, performed the final weighing and center of gravity determinations and mounted the orbiter aboard the trailer-like transporter before the long holiday weekend.

After Discovery reaches the center aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building, cranes will be connected later today to turn the 100-ton spaceplane upright and hoist it into the nearby bay where the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters await.
1200 GMT (8:00 a.m. EDT)
The transporter has parked along the roadway connecting the hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building for this morning's tribute to Discovery. Kennedy Space Center workers will have the next few hours to stop by and take pictures of the orbiter before it leaves on the 39th and final mission in a quarter-century of spaceflight.
1130 GMT (7:30 a.m. EDT)
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1123 GMT (7:23 a.m. EDT)
Discovery is now completely outside the hangar it has called home for the past five months. The spacecraft is riding aboard a special carrier vehicle, balanced atop two attach fixtures in the aft and one under its nose.

The Orbiter Transporter System hauls the shuttle between the hangar and VAB. You can envision the OTS as a yellow motorized trailer. The transporter is 106 feet in length, weighs 167,000 pounds unloaded and about 327,000 pounds with an orbiter on top and sports 76 wheels. It has a turning radius of 66 feet.

The top speed of the transporter while carrying Discovery is five miles per hour. The V12 engine generates about 335 horsepower.
1118 GMT (7:18 a.m. EDT)
After stopping to remove the exhaust hose from the transporter, Discovery is in motion once again. Thus far, only the orbiter's tail has emerged from the hangar.
1055 GMT (6:55 a.m. EDT)
ROLL BEGINS. Discovery has begun to slowly back out of the hangar, bound for its stopover at the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation to make one final space voyage before retirement.

This initial part of the move occurs at a snail's pace given the close quarters between Discovery and the cocoon-like scaffolding inside the hangar that enclosed the ship. Once outside, the motorized transporter can throttle up to a casual walking pace.
1043 GMT (6:43 a.m. EDT)
The transporter's engine has revved to life. The roll should get underway shortly.
1023 GMT (6:23 a.m. EDT)
The hangar's sliding doors are opening up.
1015 GMT (6:15 a.m. EDT)
Good morning from just outside the Orbiter Processing Facility bay No. 3 where Discovery will soon make the milestone move to the adjacent Vehicle Assembly Building for the final time. Kennedy Space Center employees, reporters and photographers are gathering to watch this initial step by the space shuttle toward its last trek to orbit.

Mounted atop a 76-wheel transporter, the Discovery will be backed out of the space-age garage for the short drive into the Vehicle Assembly Building. The trip typically takes about 45 minutes. However, the transporter will stop and put the spacecraft on display for several hours so workers can see Discovery up-close and take pictures this morning.

Arrival inside the VAB is expected around 11:30 a.m. EDT. Technicians will be hoisting the spaceplane upright and attaching it to the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters over the next few days.
1755 GMT (1:55 p.m. EDT)
Kennedy Space Center will be reopened starting with the second shift employees this afternoon. Sanitation water for restrooms across the center has been restored. However, water is not yet potable. Bottled water will be staged for workers to drink.

Specific rescheduling plans for Discovery's hangar rollout continue to target Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. EDT.
1340 GMT (9:40 a.m. EDT)
The gushing leak from the water line break is located along the roadside next to the Vehicle Assembly Building. An image from the VAB roof can be seen here.

The problem has knocked out potable water across the entire area and forced officials to close the space center today. Shuttle Discovery's milestone move from its hangar to the VAB for attachment to the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters also had to be postponed this morning because of the situation.

The nearby Kennedy Space Center Vistor Complex is closed today as well, but the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville is open.

NASA leadership will meet this afternoon to assess recovery efforts and determine when the center can be reopened. Discovery's move is tentatively reset for Thursday at 6:30 a.m. EDT.
1027 GMT (6:27 a.m. EDT)
Kennedy Space Center is being closed today to everyone except "mission essential personnel" because of the water main break. The loss of potable water has forced the closure. Workers trying to enter the center this morning are being turned around at the gates.

Discovery's move to the Vehicle Assembly Building has been postponed until Thursday.
0950 GMT (5:50 a.m. EDT)
This delay to Discovery's move is likely at least several hours and possibly more. A clear indication of the water line break is there's no water here at the KSC Press Site.

The lack of water pressure would be a safety threat in case of fire while moving Discovery. The shuttle is remaining secure in the confines of the Orbiter Processing Facility hangar until the situation is sorted out.

We'll pass along further information when the hangar rollout is rescheduled.
0930 GMT (5:30 a.m. EDT)
Discovery's departure from the hangar has been delayed this morning because of a water line break somewhere around the Kennedy Space Center. Officials are indicating that apparently the water system needs fixed before the shuttle can be moved. So the hangar doors are closed and Discovery's trip to the VAB is on hold.
Shuttle Discovery will head to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Wednesday, taking the first step on the road to the International Space Station and its final spaceflight before retirement.

The spacecraft is scheduled to leave its hangar at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), then sit on display outside for a few hours to allow Kennedy Space Center workers to photograph Discovery.

The quarter-mile move to the giant VAB atop a trailer-like transporter should be completed around 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT).

Cranes inside the assembly building will hoist Discovery vertically and attach the orbiter to the waiting tank and solid rocket boosters. The fully assembled space shuttle vehicle will be rolled to launch pad 39A on September 20 starting around 8 p.m. EDT.

Liftoff is targeted for November 1 to install the Permanent Logistics Module and another external spare parts deck on the International Space Station.

Upcoming mission events:

  • Oct. 28: Crew arrives for launch @ 2:45 p.m.
  • Oct. 29: Countdown clocks begin ticking @ 3 p.m.
  • Nov. 1: LAUNCH @ 4:40 p.m. EDT
  • Nov. 3: Docking to space station @ 1:17 p.m.
  • Nov. 5: Spacewalk No. 1
  • Nov. 6: Install cargo module on station
  • Nov. 7: Spacewalk No. 2
  • Nov. 10: Undocking from station @ 5:43 a.m. EST
  • Nov. 12: LANDING in Florida @ 10:42 a.m. EST