Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tears in the rain

Torrential rain, thunder and lightening made for an atrocious day at Kennedy Space Center today. Rain doused the Space Shuttle orbiter and two lightning bolts struck on or nearby the launch pad.

Officials said a preliminary assessment found no major problems or systems affected and while additional data reviews were planned, engineers did not expect to need any time-consuming system re-tests.

Forecasters predicted a 70 percent chance of stormy weather triggering a launch delay tomorrow, though the forecast improves slightly to 60 percent ‘no go’ Saturday and then to 40 percent on Sunday.

"Weather is not looking good for launch," shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters told reporters during a morning briefing.

"As you can see outside, the clouds have rolled in, we're starting to see some showers. We even had a thunderstorm show up this morning. So we are expecting more of this for the next couple of days."

The appalling conditions didn’t prevent NASA going ahead with the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure protecting Atlantis on launch pad 39A. It began rolling back at 2:38 pm, about 30 minutes later than planned.

Rain was pounding KSC at the time and a couple of hundred media photographers, including myself, were drenched as we waited in the open for security checks before being bused out to the launch pad to see the Shuttle.

With temperatures in the mid-80s Fahrenheit it was steamy and humid as we viewed Atlantis from the crawler-way which leads up to the launch pad. As well as the media the mosquitos were out in force.

A three hour tanking operation to fill the giant external tank with fuel was scheduled to begin at 2 am Friday morning after an assessment of the weather conditions by mission managers.

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