Saturday, May 09, 2009

Live at KSC: Countdown and Weather Look Good

LIVE IMAGES: Refresh this page for updates and the latest still images from cameras in the Launch Complex 39 area at Kennedy Space Center.

The weather forecast looks good for Monday's planned 2:01 p.m. launch of shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope, and the countdown is proceeding smoothly, officials at Kennedy Space Center said this morning.

"Our vehicle and ground systems are in great shape," said Jeff Spaulding, NASA test director, at an 11 a.m. briefing. "Our launch preps are proceeding as we had planned, and we really have no issues to report."

The forecast continues to show an 80-percent chance of acceptable conditions on Monday, said Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing. Click here to see the forecast.

"It looks like our weather is going to be favorable for launch," said Winters.

If the launch scrubs Monday, conditions worsen somewhat Tuesday and Wednesday, as a lingering front that will enter the area brings a chance of thunderstorms. That reduces the chances of acceptable launch conditions to 60 percent.

The launch time would roll back about half an hour for each launch attempt. If Atlantis can't blast off by Wednesday, it would have to wait until at least May 22 to recharge the batteries being taken to the observatory.

Today at noon, the countdown picked up from a planned four-hour hold, at T minus 27 hours until launch.

Launch pad 39A has been cleared of personnel for the loading of cryogenic reactants that will power electricity-producing fuel cells during the mission. The operation begins around 1:30 p.m. and the pad will reopen around 7:30 p.m.

After arriving at KSC with crewmates on Friday, Atlantis commander Scott Altman and pilot Greg "Ray J." Johnson this morning practiced landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft, a Gulfstream jet modified to handle like an orbiter on descent.

"They're also looking very much so to the launch on Monday, as they've been waiting quite a while to get off the ground," Spaulding said.

The fifth and final Hubble servicing mission was expected to blast off last October before a computer failure on the telescope postponed it. A replacement computer was readied for installation during the 11-day mission, which includes five spacewalks.

A pre-launch news conference is scheduled today no earlier than 6:30 p.m. Participants will include:
- Mike Moses, launch integration manager and chair, Mission Management Team
- Preston Burch, Hubble project manager
- Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director
- Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, 45th Weather Squadron

You can watch the news conference here by clicking on the NASA TV image on the right side of the page to launch a live viewer.

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