Heat Wave Improves Shuttle Endeavour's Wednesday Launch Outlook

Heat Wave Improves Shuttle Endeavour's Wednesday Launch Outlook
Sandwiched between gray clouds and the Banana Creek can be seen space shuttle Endeavour on Launch Pad 39A surrounded by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle is set to launch Aug. 8, 2007. (Image credit: NASA/Ken Thornsley.)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? Thanks to a heat wave, NASA shuttle officialsimproved tomorrow's launch weather forecast for the space shuttle Endeavour by10 percent.

Theheat wave, which forecasters are calling the "ring of fire," is pushingout typical thunderstorm conditions here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC),prompting NASA's shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters to raise Endeavour'schance of an on-time launch from 70 percent to 80 percent. Endeavour and itsseven-astronaut crew are set tolaunch Wednesday at 6:36 p.m. (2236 GMT) on a construction flight to theInternational Space Station.

"Thedrier air that we've had in the area is causing us to have less thunderstormactivity, less showers," Winters said in a Tuesday mission status briefing."The same thing that's causing the hot temperatures is the same thingthat's allowing us to have good weather for launch."

Meanwhile,shuttle technicians finished the delicate procedure of loading the propellantto feed Endeavour's fuel cells early this morning, which will provide on-boardpower for the spacecraft.

JeffSpaulding, NASA's shuttle test director, said the shroud-like Rotating ServiceStructure that shields Endeavour from weather at its Pad39A launch pad is set to retract at 9:00 p.m. EDT (0100 Aug. 8 GMT) thisevening. The six-hour process of loading the shuttle's 15-story fuel tank withits super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant is scheduled tostart at 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT) tomorrow morning.

Asthe weather system pushes away the chance of thunderstorms on launch day,astronauts continue preparing for their expected liftoff.

Commandedby veteran astronaut Scott Kelly, Endeavour's ?STS-118 crew are gearing up foran 11-to-14 day mission install a new starboard-side spacer segment on thespace station's backbone-like main truss. The astronauts also plan to deliverfresh cargo, spare parts and experiments to the orbiting laboratory.

Teacher-turned-astronautBarbara Morgan, an STS-118 mission specialist, is set make her firstjourney into space Wednesday as a member of Endeavour's crew. Her flight hasbeen 22 years in the waiting, as Morgan was Christa McAuliffe's backup duringNASA's Teacher in Space program, which ended shortly after the 1986Challenger tragedy.

  • VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan
  • VIDEO: Space Shuttle Endeavour in 3-D with Photosynth
  • IMAGES: Barbara Morgan, Crewmates Train for STS-118

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Dave Mosher is currently a public relations executive at AST SpaceMobile, which aims to bring mobile broadband internet access to the half of humanity that currently lacks it. Before joining AST SpaceMobile, he was a senior correspondent at Insider and the online director at Popular Science. He has written for several news outlets in addition to Live Science and Space.com, including: Wired.com, National Geographic News, Scientific American, Simons Foundation and Discover Magazine.