Atlantis Space Shuttle Countdown Draws To A Close; Weather Threatens Launch Zone

[Image: NASA]
Space Shuttle Atlantis is on the launchpad as of this writing, only hours from its scheduled launch, but bad weather may delay the final NASA Space Shuttle flight. Will the end of the Shuttle era be delayed by a thunderstorm? NASA is optimistic that the flight will go on as scheduled.

On Thursday, NASA announced that the weather was estimated to be only 30% in favor of a launch, but that when the large external tank is filled the forcast would be at 80%. Unfortunately, more recent announcements on the Atlantis Shuttle RSS feed note that the weather forcast remains unchanged at only 30% favorable conditions.

Also on Thursday, as engineers prepared to move the Rotating Service Structure, a large structure for servicing payloads and doing other miscellaneous tasks at the launchpad, there were two lightning strikes near the pad as a severe thunderstorm passed overhead.

NASA gave the "Go" for fueling the large external tank on the shuttle even with the poor weather forcast. At 2:01AM EDT (11:01PM PDT Thursday evening) Friday morning, fueling began with more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen being pumped into the Shuttle's tanks. NASA will continue to monitor the weather throughout the morning in case it goes for the worst. But if all goes as planned then Atlantis will launch off the pad at 11:26 AM EDT.

Space Shuttle Atlantis, built between 1980 and 1984, first launched on October 3, 1985. STS-135 will be its (and the Space Shuttle Program's) final mission. STS-135 will carry supplies to the International Space Station to keep it going after the Shuttle Program retires.

This is the last Space Shuttle mission of the US Space Program so don't miss it! Make sure to check out our earlier coverage of the Atlantis to learn how to watch it or track it on liftoff!

Follow James Mulroy on Twitter and on StumbleUpon to get the latest in microbe, dinosaur, and death ray news.

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