Shuttle Endeavour "Go" For Launch Today

NASA Delays Shuttle Launch To Investigate Possible Lightning Damage
A lightning strike at Launch Pad 39A during Friday afternoon's thunderstorm. Sensors counted 11 such strikes within 0.3 miles of the pad. Image
(Image: © NASA TV)

This story was updated at 9:10 a.m. EDT.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The space shuttle Endeavour is"Go" to launch today, NASA said, after ground crews found no signs ofdamage from a lightning strike on Friday.

The crews completed all the necessarycheck outs of the vehicle's critical systems and cleared the shuttle forlift off this morning around 9:00 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT). Endeavour is now slatedto blast off this evening at 7:13 p.m. EDT (2313 GMT) from Launch Pad 39A hereat Kennedy Space Center.

The weather outlook for today has improved, with a 70percent chance of favorable conditions, NASA said.

Endeavour's 15-storey external fuel tank is now due to beginfilling with its liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant at 9:48 a.m. EDT(1348 GMT).

Lightning Scare

A violent electrical storm hit near Endeavour's perch atopLaunch Pad 39A here at Kennedy Space Center, with 11lightning bolts striking down on the pad. Though the shuttle did not take adirect hit, NASA feared the powerful electric charge in nearby lightning couldhave induced a current that may have damaged sensitive electronics aboard theorbiter.

"They concluded that there are no technical issuesbecause of the lightning," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.

Endeavour's STS-127 mission has already been delayed twiceby a potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leak from the shuttle's external fueltank. Mission managers said they think that issue poses no threat after arepair was successfully tested last week.

The shuttle and itsseven astronauts are slated for a 16-day construction mission to theInternational Space Station (ISS). Commander Mark Polansky will lead the crewin delivering an outdoor porch segment for the JapaneseKibo laboratory, some spare supplies, as well as a new long-durationstation crewmember - NASA astronaut Tim Kopra - to the orbital outpost. Koprais set to start a long-duration mission to the space station as a flightengineer on the outpost's six-man Expedition 20 crew.

Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and NASA astronauts DougHurley, Chris Cassidy, Tom Marshburn and Dave Wolf are slated to launch alongwith Polansky and Kopra on Endeavour. The spaceflyers plan anambitious visit to the ISS with five spacewalks and complicated robotic work.

Endeavour's flight will be NASA's third shuttle mission ofthe year and the second to the ISS in 2009.

If crews do find damage, or are not able to complete thethorough checks required in time to start tanking on schedule, NASA may delayuntil Monday or later. Endeavour has until July 14 to launch before it muststand down to allow an unmanned Russian cargo ship to dock at the spacestation. If the mission does not get off the ground by then, NASA may negotiatewith Russia for more time, or wait until the shuttle's launch window opens upagain on July 27.

SPACE.com is providing continuous coverage of STS-127with reporter Clara Moskowitz at Cape Canaveral and senior editor Tariq Malikin New York. Click herefor mission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed. Live launchcoverage begins at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

 

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