NASA begins fueling shuttle after storm delay

Racing against the clock, NASA began
fueling shuttle Endeavour for a Wednesday launch to the
international space station after thunderstorms caused a three-hour
delay.

The fueling finally got under way late Tuesday, just when it
should have been ending.

NASA acknowledged it would be tight to meet the 5:40 a.m.
liftoff time. But launch controllers spent the long weather delay
figuring out ways to save time during the remainder of the
countdown, and mission managers felt they had a good shot at
getting Endeavour flying.

The seven astronauts, awaiting word at crew quarters, were
ecstatic.

"We are GO for tanking!" commander Mark Polansky wrote in a
Twitter update.

This is NASA's second attempt to launch Endeavour and its crew
on the space station construction mission and the last one this
month. If Endeavour isn't flying by Wednesday, it will have to make
way for an unmanned moon shot and wait until July.

A leak in a hydrogen gas vent line thwarted Saturday's attempt,
the same kind of problem that stalled a shuttle flight in March.
The same sort of repairs were done. NASA won't know if the repairs
were successful until close to the end of the three-hour fueling
process.

The most severe thunderstorms were actually to the north and
west of Kennedy Space Center, but they posed a threat of lightning
at the launch pad. That's a violation for loading more than 500,000
gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen into the shuttle's external
fuel tank.

The weather outlook, at least, was good for liftoff: 80 percent
favorable.

Endeavour is set to deliver the third and last segment of
Japan's massive space station lab. It will be one of the longer
international space station visits - nearly two weeks docked at the
orbiting outpost - and include five spacewalks.

Once the shuttle pulls up at the space station, there will be 13
people together in space for the first time ever.

NASA bumped its launch of two lunar probes, which had been
scheduled for Wednesday, to give Endeavour this second chance. The
moon mission is now scheduled for a Friday liftoff.

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On the Net:
NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov


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