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Space shuttle move delayed by broken water pipe

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NASA's plan to move the space shuttle Discovery out of its hangar in preparation for its final voyage has been delayed at least a day because of a water main break at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Discovery was slated to move from its maintenance hangar to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at the spaceport early Wednesday so engineers could attach the shuttle to its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. But a 24-inch (61-cm) water pipe broke near the 52-story assembly building, cutting off the water supply to the shuttle launch facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The shuttle transfer was postponed to Thursday, to begin no earlier than 6:30 a.m. EDT.

"The center is closed down — only open to essential personnel," Kennedy Space Center spokesman Allard Beutel told

Discovery is being moved from the hangar, called the Orbiter Processing Facility, in preparation for NASA's STS-133 shuttle flight to the International Space Station in November. The shuttle is slated to launch on its final mission November 1. This delay should not change Discovery's launch date, Beutel said.

"We have enough cushion right now so it won't affect the target date, at least right now," he said.

Meanwhile, preparations for the mission are continuing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the six STS-133 astronauts are rehearsing for their flight.

The mission to the International Space Station will deliver spare parts and external experiment platforms, as well as a closet-like storage room and a humanoid robot assistant, named Robonaut 2, for astronauts.

Discovery's final mission, the 133rd shuttle mission since the fleet began launching into space in 1981, will also be the 35th mission to the space station.

NASA plans to fly only two more shuttle missions before the space shuttle fleet is retired in 2011 to make way for future missions to visit an asteroid by 2025. The possibility of a third shuttle flight, which would fly in summer of 2011, is being discussed in Congress.

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