NASA Watches Weather for Friday Shuttle Launch

Report: Space Shuttle Retirement Date in Jeopardy
Space shuttle Endeavour stands poised for space soon after being moved to Launch Pad 39A for the launch of STS-126 on Nov. 14, 2008.
(Image: © NASA/Troy Cryder)

NASA iskeeping an eye on the weather as it prepares the shuttle Endeavour for a Fridaynight launch toward the International Space Station.

Endeavour hasa 60 percent chance of favorable launch weather for its planned 7:55 p.m. EST(0055 Nov. 15 GMT) liftoff to ferry a new crewmember and vitalnew equipment to the space station. Thick clouds and the chance of nearbyrain showers at the shuttle?s Kennedy Space Center launch site in Florida arethe only concerns, NASA officials said.

?Oursystems are in great shape,? said NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding in atelevised briefing at the seaside spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Fla. ?We?re trackingno issues at this time.?

A weatherfront is expected to arrive at Endeavour?s launch site late this week and posesa 40 percent chance of thwarting the launch late Friday, said Kathy Winters,shuttle weather officer for the launch.

Theforecast is even worse for Saturday, with rain and thick clouds posing a 60percent chance of preventing the shuttle launch, she added.

?The timingof the front will be critical,? Winters said.

While NASAwatches the weather, Endeavour shuttle commander Chris Ferguson and his STS-126crew are due to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center today at about 4:00 p.m. EST(2100 GMT).

Endeavour?sseven astronauts are gearing up for a planned15-day mission to the space station, where they plan to swap out one memberof the outpost?s Expedition 18 crew and deliver a second kitchen, bathroom, newexercise equipment, two sleeping compartments and a recycling system that willallow astronauts to process urine into drinking water.

The newgear is designed to boost the station?s ability to accommodate larger,six-person crews. Four spacewalks are also planned for the mission, which couldbe extended an extra day if supplies allow, to clean and grease up a balkysolar array joint that has been damagedby metal shavings.

Thecountdown for Endeavour?s launch is slated to begin tonight at about 10:00 p.m.EST (0300 Nov. 12 GMT).

NASA mustlaunch the shuttle by Nov. 25 before having to stand down due to unfavorablepower and sun angle conditions at the space station. Mission managers prefer tolaunch Endeavour by Nov. 21 to avoid docking conflicts with an unmanned RussianProgress cargo ship at the space station late this month.

Endeavour?sSTS-126 liftoff will mark NASA?s fourth shuttle flight, and second nightlaunch, of the year. But it comes after a months-long flight hiatus made even longerby lastmonth?s launch delay for the shuttle Discovery?s mission to the HubbleSpace Telescope.

??We haven?thad a launch in awhile,? Spaulding said. ?So we?re really excited to be back inthe saddle.?

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