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Shuttle Discovery Awaits Tests At Launch Pad

The orbiter is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station in February.
NASA's Shuttle Discovery has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will undergo tests for its Feb. 12 launch.

The shuttle reached the launchpad Wednesday morning, on top of a crawler-transporter that traveled under 1 mph on its 3.4-mile journey from the space center's Vehicle Assembly building. The shuttle system consists of an orbiter, an external fuel tank, and twin solid rocket boosters. It is fully assembled and mounted on a mobile launchpad.

Next week, NASA will conduct a terminal countdown demonstration test, or rehearsal, with the shuttle and its astronauts and ground crews. The rehearsal includes simulated countdown activities. It allows crews to check equipment, practice emergency training, and review space procedures.

Discovery will likely embark on its 36th flight, a 14-day mission to the International Space Station in February. The trip will mark NASA's 125th shuttle flight and the 28th flight to the space station, NASA said.

A crew of seven astronauts plans to install equipment on the right side of the ISS and deploy its solar arrays. They will conduct four spacewalks during the mission.

Commander Lee Archambault will lead the STS-119 mission. Other members of the crew include pilot Tony Antonelli, mission specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, and John Phillips. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata is also a member of the crew. Wakata will remain on the space station to replace Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus. Magnus will return to Earth on Discovery.

The launch date could change if weather or other conditions merit a delay.

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