Friday, November 13, 2009

Weather looks good for rocket, shuttle launches

Weather forecasts look promising for on-time launches of an unmanned rocket and a space shuttle from the Space Coast over the next four days.

The 19-story United Launch Alliance Atlas V is scheduled to blast off late tonight with a communications satellite from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window extends from 12:48 a.m. to 2:18 a.m.

Click here to view a ULA Web cast of the launch, expected to begin at 12:28 a.m.

The most recent Air Force forecast, issued Thursday, shows a 70-percent chance of favorable conditions, with a chance of winds and cumulus clouds.

The Atlas V must launch tonight for space shuttle Atlantis and six astronauts to take flight as planned at 2:28 p.m. Monday. A one-day delay would push the shuttle launch back a day.

An Air Force forecast released today predicts a 90-percent chance of good weather at Kennedy Space Center during Monday's 10-minute launch window for Atlantis, with a slight possibility of a low cloud ceiling.

The outlook worsens on subsequent days, if they are necessary, with 70-percent and 40-percent chances of good weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

NASA plans to host its first shuttle countdown status briefing today at 10 a.m., featuring Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA test director; Scott Higginbotham, STS-129 payload manager; and Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer.

Click here to open a NASA TV video player and watch the briefing live.

The official countdown to launch of the 11-day mission to deliver spare parts to the International Space Station is expected to begin at 1 p.m. today.

Six Atlantis astronauts flew from Houston to KSC on Thursday afternoon to prepare for launch.

Click here for more information on the mission.

IMAGE NOTE: On launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, the STS-129 crew, dressed in their launch-and-entry suits, posed for a group portrait following the completion of their Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, a dress rehearsal for launch, on Nov. 3. Behind them are space shuttle Atlantis' external tank and the nose cone of a solid rocket booster. From left are Mission Specialists Leland Melvin and Randy Bresnik; Pilot Barry E. Wilmore; Commander Charles O. Hobaugh; and Mission Specialists Mike Foreman and Robert L. Satcher Jr. On STS-129, the crew will deliver to the station two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the station's robotic arm. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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