Departure of the Space Shuttle Discovery on its ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California to its home at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is still on schedule for early Friday morning. As of the time of this report, Discovery will depart Edwards on the first leg of its ferry flight atop a modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) about sunrise Friday, or about 6:00 - 6:15 a.m.
Difficulties with alignment of the aerodynamic tailcone with the aft end of the Space Shuttle Discovery were resolved and the installation was completed Wednesday afternoon. Technicians then performed several operations requiring hydraulic power, including positioning the orbiter's body flap against the bottom of the tailcone, raising and locking the landing gear, and repositioning the elevons and rudder for the ferry flight.
A sling on the Mate-DeMate Device began hoisting Discovery about 60 feet into the air at mid-morning today. NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will be towed underneath beginning about noon, and Discovery will then be gently and precisely lowered onto the ball joint fittings that attach it to the 747. The mating of the two craft is expected to be completed this evening, and the pair will be ready to fly.
The cross-country journey is expected to take two days, with stops at several intermediate points for refueling. The first leg of the flight Friday morning is expected to take the piggyback pair over portions of southeast California, Arizona and New Mexico before landing at a military installation in Texas. A final determination of the first intermediate destination will be made at the pre-flight weather briefing that is scheduled about 2 1/2 hours prior to takeoff.
After an overnight stop, the 747 - Shuttle combination is scheduled to continue its journey across the south to the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida, with arrival tentatively set for late Saturday afternoon. Two additional refueling stops are expected en route.
For more on the Space Shuttle's Return to Flight, visit: www.nasa.gov/returntoflight on the Internet.