Clocks now ticking for Sunday's shuttle launch
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 4, 2010
The countdown began early Thursday for the planned pre-dawn launching of the shuttle Endeavour Sunday on a three-spacewalk mission to attach a new module to the International Space Station.
The countdown began on time at 2 a.m. EST and if all goes well, Endeavour will blast off on the first of a final five shuttle missions planned for 2010 at 4:39:47 a.m. Sunday. Forecasters are predicting a 70 percent chance of good weather with the only concern being a chance of high winds out of the north that could cause problems.
"All of our vehicle systems are in great shape, the crews are very excited about the upcoming launch, both flight crew and our ground crews," said NASA Test Director Jeffrey Spaulding. "The countdown itself is going extremely well."
The astronauts - commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, Kathryn Hire, flight engineer Stephen Robinson and spacewalkers Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick - flew to the Kennedy Space Center from Houston late Tuesday to prepare for launch.
Shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said stormy weather from a cold front is expected overnight Friday and early Saturday, but generally good weather is expected in Florida Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Spaulding said if the weather or some other issue prevented a Sunday launch, NASA managers would pick the best day of the remaining two for a second attempt.
After that, the shuttle team would stand down until after the launch of United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket carrying NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory science satellite.
"There is an Atlas right behind us," Spaulding said. "From a range perspective, have the seventh, eighth and ninth. If we're not of the ground by that time, we would stand down for the Atlas that would launch two days after us. After their launch, it takes three days to reconfigure the (Air Force Eastern) Range to get us ready again, meaning if we stand down for Atlas, it's a five-day turn before we could come back to try again.
"Right now, we're looking for probably the best two of the three days on the seventh through the ninth and we'll work that as needed for any of our scrub scenarios."
Spaulding said work to clean up water damage in the launch control center from a fire surpression system pipe that ruptured late last month is going well and no problems are expected for Endeavour's launch campaign.