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Wed, Nov 12, 2008

NASA Eyes Cold Front Ahead Of Friday's STS-126 Launch

Rain, Clouds May Postpone Mission To ISS

The countdown clock is ticking towards Friday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour... but an approaching weather system may dash hopes of an on-time liftoff.

The Associated Press reports a cold front is forecast to bring cloudy skies and rain to Florida's Space Coast by the end of the week, which could pose problems for the nighttime launch.

The launch window for the STS-126 mission to the International Space Station runs through November 25, so a Friday launch isn't imperative. NASA would prefer to launch the shuttle sooner rather than later, however, to insure the orbiter and its crew are back on Earth in time for the space agency to close for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The seven-member STS-126 crew (shown above) arrived at Kennedy Space Center this week to begin their pre-launch preparations. The countdown clock started Tuesday night.

For the moment, there's still a 60 percent probability acceptable weather conditions will prevail Friday, shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said. Should the targeted 1955 EST launch be postponed, however, that forecast drops to just 40 percent favorability on Saturday.

"The timing of the front will be critical," she said.

As ANN reported, STS-126 will transport some much-needed improvements to the ISS, including two additional sleeping berths, a new refrigerator, and a kitchenette. The first components of an innovative water filtering and recycling system will also be installed.

Astronauts are also scheduled to perform repairs to a problematic joint on one of the station's solar arrays, that has caused problems since late last year. Three crewmembers will take turns cleaning and lubricating the right-side solar alpha rotary joint.

"This mission is all about home improvement, home improvement both inside and outside," STS-126 Commander Christopher Ferguson said Tuesday.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/shuttle

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