Lightning Strikes Postpone Shuttle Launch
A series of lightning strikes forced NASA to delay the launch of the Endeavour space shuttle on Saturday for 24 hours.
The shuttle was expected to launch at 7:39 p.m. Eastern from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The announcement comes as the third time NASA officials have decided to delay the seven-astronaut mission to make upgrades to the International Space Station.
On Friday, NASA continued preparing for the third launch attempt, but noted the forecast of a 60 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms in the area.
NASA counted 11 lightning strikes in the area surrounding the launch site on Friday evening.
“The launch is scrubbed for at least 24 hours,” NASA spokesman George Diller told reporters.
“This delay will give technical teams additional time to evaluate lightning strikes at Launch Pad 39A that occurred during Friday’s thunderstorm.
The 24-hour delay will give NASA engineers enough time to evaluate whether or not the spacecraft sustained any damages from the lightning strikes.
“We’ve seen nothing so far that shows anything affected any of the systems,” said Mike Moses, chairman of the pre-launch Mission Management Team.
“We need to be 100 percent confident that we have a good system across the board,” Moses said.
The Endeavour crew is expected to finalize work on the Japanese laboratory Kibo during their 16-day mission.
Astronauts are expected to install a permanent platform to the Kibo lab over the course of five spacewalks intended to last about 32.5 hours.
Once in orbit, Endeavour’s crew of Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Dave Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Tim Kopra and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette will meet with the current space station crew. Kopra is expected to replace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.
NASA plans to launch Endeavour on Sunday at 7:13 p.m. EDT.
NASA has three days to launch space shuttle Endeavour before being forced to wait for Russia’s space agency to launch an unmanned craft. If NASA does not launch within the four-day period, it won’t get another chance to launch until July 27.
Image Caption: A lightning strike at Launch Pad 39A during Friday’s thunderstorm. Image credit: NASA TV
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