Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Breezy weather shouldn't hinder Sunday launch

Shuttle Endeavour and six astronauts hope to lift off at 4:39 a.m. Sunday in breezy but acceptable weather conditions.

"Right now, winds are looking like they'll stay in check for launch," Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters said this morning at Kennedy Space Center.

The Air Force 45th Space Wing's official forecast anticipates a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions.

The forecast is excellent for shuttle fueling operations scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

The launch countdown officially begins at 2 a.m. Thursday. Managers say all systems are in good shape and preparations for the year's first shuttle launch are on track.

"At this point we don't have any issues and preps are going well," said NASA Test Director Jeremy Graeber.

Gusting winds and some rain could push through Cape Canaveral through Saturday, but Winters said they aren't expected to delay key countdown milestones like retraction of launch pad 39A's rotating service tower at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Overnight, teams pressurized tanks in Endeavour's main propulsion system and orbital maneuvering thrusters.

The mission crew, led by commander George Zamka, arrived just after 10 p.m. Tuesday and worked through the night before going to sleep around 9:45 a.m. today -- part of a sleep shifting schedule to prepare for the mission's late-night hours.

Endeavour has three opportunities to launch from Sunday through Tuesday. Then it might have to stand down for the planned launch of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The weather outlook improves Monday.

If Endeavour blasts off Sunday to the International Space Station and the mission lasts the planned 13 days, the shuttle would return to KSC for landing at 11:17 p.m. Feb. 19.

The mission plans to deliver the final large living space to the station -- the Tranquility module and a seven-windowed observation deck called the cupola, both built in Italy.

"We're all very excited to pick up with countdown, leading up to Sunday's early launch," Graeber said.

IMAGE NOTE: At the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center late Tuesday, STS-130 commander George Zamka welcomed the media and employees on hand for the arrival of his crew. From left are mission specialists Robert Behnken, Nicholas Patrick, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire; Zamka, at microphone; and pilot Terry Virts. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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