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'Nuisance Weather' Could Delay Shuttle Launch


Space shuttle Atlantis STS-135 crew attend a news conference at launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral (file photo)

Space shuttle Atlantis STS-135 crew attend a news conference at launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral (file photo)

NASA's Mike Moses, head of the mission management team, told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday that the Atlantis shuttle is in “fantastic shape."

That is good news, considering that the shuttle in launch configuration has about 2.5 million moving parts.

But while the vehicle is in great shape, it is the weather that is shaping up to be a problem.

Kathy Winters, the shuttle weather officer, says there is only a 30 percent chance of the weather cooperating for a liftoff Friday. “I wish I had better weather for the forecast, but it is not looking favorable right now for launch,” she said.

She said a tropical wave bringing scattered showers and isolated storms is going to roll into Florida in the next few days.

But, NASA says, the forecast shows that the weather will improve after Friday, with a 60 percent chance of favorable launch conditions on Sunday, July 10. If the launch date is postponed, NASA will set the next launch time for earlier in the day, in order to the catch the most favorable conditions.

Certainly the more than 500,000 visitors who are flocking to the communities around the Kennedy Space Center are hoping for very few clouds and clear conditions so they can get great views of this historic launch.

As of now, Moses says NASA is going to continue with the countdown as planned.

“The bottom line is, nothing happens until we can't launch. Right, so, nobody's going to agree to things that aren't planned until there are problems, and there are no problems yet. There's just weather forecasts, and weather forecasts are forecasts.”

He added that July 9 and 10 provide opportunities to launch.

This upcoming liftoff will be the 135th and final space shuttle launch, and the 33rd flight of Atlantis. NASA is retiring the 30-year-old shuttle fleet to focus on developing the next-generation of spacecraft.

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