Weather Looks Good for Wednesday Space Shuttle Launch

Atlantis Shuttle Crew Returns to Florida Spaceport
The crew of mission STS-115 stop to talk to the media after arriving at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility to prepare for a second launch attempt on Sept. 6 to the International Space Station. Seen here, left to right, are mission specialists Steven MacLean and Joseph Tanner, commander Brent Jett, pilot Christopher Ferguson, and mission specialists Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Daniel Burbank. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.)

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - The weather odds are in NASA's favor for its planned Wednesdaylaunch of the space shuttleAtlantis.

Atlantisand its six-astronautcrew have an 80 percent chance of clear skies at 12:29 p.m. EDT (1629 GMT)Wednesday, when they expect to rocket spaceward towards the International SpaceStation (ISS), shuttle weather officials said here at NASA's Kennedy SpaceCenter (KSC). Subsequent launch opportunities on Thursday and Friday offer a 70percent chance of favorable conditions, they added.

"Overall,the weather looks good for launch day and we're looking forward to it," shuttleweather officer Kathy Winters said Monday in a status briefing.

Commandedby veteran shuttle flyer BrentJett, Atlantis' STS-115 crew will deliver a $371.8 million set of newsolar arrays and massive trusses to the ISS in what will mark NASA's first space stationconstruction mission since late2002.

The shuttlemission is NASA's third since the 2003 Columbia tragedy and hasbeen delayed several times from its Aug. 27 target by poor weather, first dueto a launchpad lightning strike and relatedspacecraft checks and then by TropicalStorm Ernesto. Atlantis now has several final opportunities to fly during athree-daywindow from Sept. 6-8 to avoid conflicts with an upcoming Russian Soyuzlaunch on Sept. 18.

"Atlantis andher crew have been waiting for years to complete this mission, and thanks toErnesto they've had to wait a week longer or so," said Jeff Spaulding, NASAtest director, during the briefing, adding that aside from some cosmetic damageto Atlantis' foam-covered external tank the spacecraft weather Ernesto well. "Thatwait's nearly over."

Spauldingsaid analysis is still underway to determine whether shuttle officials willactually target three consecutive launch attempts should it become necessary.

Meanwhile,pad crews have completed loading the cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquidhydrogen used to power Atlantis' fuel cells aboard the orbiter. Engine checksare scheduled for later this evening.

Atlantis'17.5-ton payload - the Port 3/Port4 (P3/P4) truss segment and its solar arrays -remain in fine condition tucked in the shuttle's cargo bay. The payload'sbatteries will not have to be recharged since their Aug. 24 boost, shuttleofficials said, though experimentpackages containing yeast and microbes will be loaded into Atlantis'middeck lockers Tuesday afternoon.

"We'retracking no issues at this time and we're right on track with our timelines,"Spaulding said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.