NASA Aims for Monday Space Shuttle Launch After Delay
Space shuttle Endeavour stands poised for a Feb. 2010 launch toward the International Space Station. The shuttle's Feb. 7 launch attempt was thwarted by low clouds. It is now set to blast off on the STS-130 mission on Feb. 8.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

This story was updated at 10:07 p.m. ET.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? NASA has fueled the space shuttle Endeavour for a planned predawn launch on Monday after a one-day delay due to thick clouds.

Endeavour and a crew of six astronauts are slated to blast off before dawn at 4:14 a.m. EST (0914 GMT) to deliver a brand-new room and observation deck to the International Space Station.

Thick, low-lying clouds over Endeavour?s seaside launch pad here at the Kennedy Space Center violated NASA?s visibility rules for a shuttle blastoff early Sunday, thwarting the attempted liftoff.

?We hope the weather?s a little bit better,? NASA launch director Mike Leinbach told Endeavour?s crew after scrubbing Sunday?s launch try.

NASA needs good visibility over the launch pad during a shuttle launch, as well as over a nearby runway in case of an anomaly that would force an emergency landing, mission managers said.

?Disappointed by the scrub, but got a really good night's sleep,? Endeavour astronaut Nick Patrick posted on his Twitter page. He is posting updates on his upcoming spaceflight as Astro_Nicholas.

Endeavour has a 60 percent chance of good weather for Monday?s launch attempt, with fueling of the shuttle?s 15-story external tank beginning at 6:50 p.m. EST (2350 GMT) tonight.

That?s just after the scheduled kickoff of tonight?s Super Bowl 44 showdown between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints in South Florida. Leinbach has said that unlike NASA?s shuttle fleet ? which is due to retire later this year ? the Super Bowl?s days aren?t numbered, so his launch team can skip this one.

?So there?ve been quite a few, and there probably will be more, so if my team misses this one, then it?s no big deal,? Leinbach said before the launch attempts

Endeavour?s upcoming STS-130 mission is the first of NASA?s five final shuttle flights before the orbiter fleet is retired this fall.

The mission is also expected to be NASA?s last ever launch of a space shuttle at night. Experts have said that ? weather permitting ? Endeavour?s climb into space may be visible to observers all along the eastern United States. [How to watch the shuttle launch.]

Next stop: Space

Commanded by veteran shuttle astronaut George Zamka, Endeavour?s five-man, one-woman crew plans to fly a 13-day mission to deliver the last major NASA segment of the space station.

Endeavour is hauling a new room called Tranquility and a seven-window observation deck that promises to give station astronauts their best view yet of the Earth and space.

Tranquility is a cylindrical module designed to hold the space station?s life support, exercise and robotic arm control systems. Three spacewalks are planned to attach the new space room.

The observation deck, called the Cupola, is a dome-shaped portal that will be mounted to an Earth-facing berth on that new module. It includes six windows arranged around a large, round central portal that is the biggest window ever built for a spacecraft.

Set to launch on Endeavour with Zamka and Patrick are shuttle pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Robert Behnken, Kathryn Hire and Stephen Robinson. All are spaceflight veterans except Virts, who is making his first trip to space on the mission.

Spaceflight debate

Endeavour?s launch comes on the heels of an order from President Barack Obama that NASA scrap its Constellation program responsible for building the Orion spaceships and Ares rockets that were slated to replace the retiring shuttle fleet and help return astronauts to the moon.

President Obama issued the order last week as part of his 2011 budget request for NASA, which would cut the Constellation program, extend the space station?s use through 2020 and set aside funding to support the development of commercial spacecraft for launching astronauts into space.

Instead of building new spaceships, NASA would use that funding to develop new technologies and capabilities to push human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit, possibly to the moon, asteroids or Mars. The budget request still has to be approved by members of Congress, some of whom have already spoken out against the new NASA direction, before being approved.

On Saturday, NASA administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden told reporters that he believed commercial spacecraft builders may be able provide access to space faster and cheaper than the space agency?s Constellation plan.

He also stressed that NASA is not throwing out everything it developed under the Constellation program, on which it spent five years and $9 billion. The agency is taking a close look to see what things can be saved for the future.

?While we are phasing out the Constellation program per se, I don?t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater,? Bolden said.

NASA and White House officials have not set firm target destinations for future human spaceflight or any deadlines to reach them, but Bolden said the focus right now is developing the capabilities required to open up the solar system. The destinations will come later.

?We?ve got to settle on an ultimate destination,? Bolden said. ?I think they should be moon, Mars, asteroids.?

Endeavour?s launch will mark NASA?s first shuttle flight of the year and the 130th orbiter launch since the fleet began flying in 1981.

NASA wants to launch the shuttle Monday in order to clear the way for the planned Feb. 10 launch of the new Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The sun-watching probe?s liftoff has already been pushed back a day due to Endeavour?s launch delay. It is slated to blast off atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near NASA?s Kennedy Space Center.

  • Video - Endeavour's Mission: Space Windows and Rooms
  • Video - Behind the Scenes of Endeavour's STS-130 Mission
  • Images - Space Shuttle's Midnight Launch is providing complete coverage of Endeavour's STS-130 mission to the International Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik in Cape Canaveral and Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz in New York. Click here for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV. Live coverage begins at 11 p.m. ET.