Will Launch After Storm Passes
If there is a dominant theme for the upcoming launch of the
shuttle Atlantis, it might be that one must ALWAYS respect Mother
Nature... as after a launch pad lightning strike last week and a
looming hurricane bearing down on Cape Canaveral, NASA mission
managers have decided to roll Atlantis back to the Vehicle Assembly
Building in order to wait out the storm.
At their mission preflight briefing this morning, NASA manages
determined to move ahead with rollback preparations, ensuring that
Space Shuttle Atlantis would be safely back in the VAB before
effects from Tropical Storm Ernesto would be felt at the Kennedy
Space Center on Florida's east coast.
"We pretty much did what we said we were going to do," said
Leroy Cain, mission management team chairman. "We got together this
morning and talked about it and didn't see any significant change
for the good."
"We'd like to get off the pad tomorrow morning if at all
possible," said Launch Director Mike Leinbach. "Based on tomorrow
afternoon's local weather, we'd much rather be back in the VAB
earlier rather than later."
As Aero-News reported, NASA
had postponed the launch of Atlantis from Sunday to Monday after
the lightning strike... and then determined scientists needed yet
another day to throughly inspected for any damage to the pad, or
Prior to the rollback announcement, Atlantis was scheduled to
launch Tuesday afternoon -- past the time NASA says it needs to
begin rolling the shuttle back to the VAB, in order to beat the
storm. Erring on the side of caution, NASA decided not to take the
chance of stranding the shuttle on the launch pad, should a Tuesday
launch had not gone off as planned.
Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters described the effects that
the Kennedy Space Center could receive from Ernesto if the current
track and strength holds, predicting tropical storm force winds
Wednesday morning and hurricane force winds by 5:00 pm EDT.
NASA's launch window for Atlantis extends to September 13, but
mission managers were hoping to launch by the 7th to avoid a
conflict with a Russian Soyuz mission also bound for the
International Space Station. Officials are now conferring with
their Russian counteparts about the issue.
Once the storm passes, Atlantis would require eight days of
launch preparations once it was returned to Launch Pad 39B --
putting the earliest possible launch attempt towards the end of the
first full week in September.