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Candace Smith

NASA's space shuttle Discovery moved a step closer toward launch
Monday as engineers
     worked to join the orbiter with the twin rocket boosters and fuel
tank that will aid its flight into
     space next month.

     Engineers hoisted Discovery up inside the cavernous Vehicle
Assembly Building (VAB)
     today at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to
attach the 100-ton shuttle to
     its 15-story external fuel tank, said NASA spokesperson George
Diller. The orbiter rolled
     over to the VAB from its protective hangar Sunday afternoon.

     "We're in good shape to roll out to the launch pad on Sept. 30,"
Diller told

     Discovery's short trip to the VAB was delayed several days as NASA
engineers replaced a
     leaky hydraulic seal and three others on a shock absorbing strut
attached the orbiter's right
     main landing gear. The repair work went smoothly, allowing NASA to
maintain the planned
     Oct. 23 launch target for Discovery's STS-120 construction mission
to the International
     Space Station (ISS).

     Shuttle workers used four of five padding days built into
Discovery's launch preparation
     schedule to replace the hydraulic seals, leaving one extra day
available for any future
     issues, Diller said.

     Earlier this month, NASA engineers also completed work to trim away
internal insulation
     layers from four of five brackets on Discovery's foam-covered fuel
tank after an X-ray survey
     found cracks in their cork-like material. Similar cracks may have
led to the launch debris
     that dinged the underside of the shuttle Endeavour during its Aug.
8 liftoff, NASA officials
     have said.

     Commanded by veteran NASA spaceflyer Pamela Melroy, Discovery's
seven-astronaut crew
     will deliver a new connecting node to the ISS that will serve as
the foundation for future
     international laboratories. The astronauts will also move an older
solar array segment and
     test shuttle heat shield repair techniques during the five
spacewalks planned during their
     14-day mission.