Weather Threatens Shuttle Launch (Again) - InformationWeek

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Weather Threatens Shuttle Launch (Again)

Thunderstorms near Kennedy Space Center could keep Endeavour grounded for third straight day.

NASA is hoping to launch the space shuttle Endeavour Monday evening, but showers and thunderstorms could force the space agency to scrub liftoff for the third day in a row.

The next launch window for the mission, officially known as STS-127, opens at 6:51 pm this evening—but forecasters are calling for scattered thunderstorms to develop in the vicinity of Florida's Kennedy Space Center starting at about 3:00 pm and continuing throughout the night.

NASA scrubbed efforts to launch Endeavour on Saturday and Sunday due to weather concerns. STS-127 has been plagued by problems. Initially scheduled for a June launch, it was placed on hold for weeks due to hydrogen gas leaks in Endeavour's external fuel tank.

If it ever gets off the ground, STS-127 will be a 16-day mission that will see the Endeavour crew work to complete construction of Japan's Kibo space laboratory.

The astronauts will add a porch-like platform to the lab's exterior that will allow experiments to be exposed to the vacuum of outer space.

The crew has an international flair. Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette will be aboard the shuttle. Also part of the seven-member crew is American Timothy Kopra, who will replace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata—in space since March--upon arrival at the ISS.

NASA is expected to phase out the space shuttle program starting next year. Plans call for the development of an Apollo-style rocket and capsule system, dubbed Ares and Orion, to replace the orbiter.

Obama administration officials, however, have recently raised questions about the plan's cost and practicality. NASA will begin live Web coverage of Monday's shuttle lift-off attempt starting at 1:30 pm this afternoon.

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