July 5, 2011

NASA Says Weather Could Delay Atlantis’ Final Launch

NASA's weather officer said on Tuesday that showers and thunderstorms could delay this weeks' final launch for space shuttle Atlantis.

Atlantis is set to usher out the space shuttle program Friday on July 8 at 11:26 a.m. with four U.S. astronauts on board a 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The flight will be the last by a U.S. shuttle, ending the 30-year program and leaving a gap in U.S. human spaceflight. 

However, growing weather concerns could cause this mission to face delays, which has been a pattern for the last few shuttle launches.

"We are going with a 60 percent chance of KSC (Kennedy Space Center) weather prohibiting launch due to the potential for showers and isolated thunderstorms in the area," shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters told reporters ahead of Friday's planned liftoff.

The turbulent weather and clouds within 20 nautical miles of the launch pad were likely to move in "near the end of the countdown, right around that 11:00 am time period," she added.

If the launch is delayed on Friday, other weekend opportunities will arise.  Conditions improve to a 40 percent chance of weather prohibiting launch on Saturday, and a 30 percent chance on Sunday.

"We will do everything we can to launch on Friday but if things don't work out so that we can do that we have plenty of options... Saturday and Sunday," Jeremy Graeber, NASA test director, said in a statement.

Graeber said NASA was expecting crowds of around 500,000 to 700,000 to witness the shuttle's final launch.


Image Caption: A canister, carrying the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 mission to the International Space Station, arrives at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The canister then will be lifted to the payload changeout room. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux


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