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All systems 'go,' but weather iffy for Endeavour launch

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 8, 2009
The shuttle Endeavour this week will make a third try at launching for a rendezvous with the International Space Station, after potentially hazardous hydrogen gas leaks twice delayed the mission, space officials said Wednesday.

"I am happy to report that we are ready to proceed with launch countdown. We are ready to tank this vehicle on Saturday morning and proceed with our launch on Saturday evening," said NASA test director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson at a press conference.

Leaks discovered on June 13 and June 17 prompted NASA to scuttle previous launch attempts, but tests following repairs to an external fuel tank last week proved problem-free.

"The test was very successful. We did not have any leaks, any issue or any anomaly," Blackwell-Thompson said.

The flawless test means that officials can proceed with countdown for Endeavour and its seven-member crew to embark on its final mission to the ISS.

"Endeavour is in great shape. Our launch countdown preparations are going well, our work is on schedule," she continued. "We are ready to fly this mission."

Endeavour is set for a launch on July 11 at 2339 GMT from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.

NASA said a misaligned plate linking a hydrogen gas vent line with the external fuel tank had caused last month's leaks.

But officials said the major uncertainty now is whether the weather will hold up.

"We expect that we will see some afternoon thunderstorm in the area around launch time," said shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters.

"We are forecasting 60 percent (chance of) weather prohibiting launch -- which is of course, 40 percent chances for 'go' weather."

Weather permitting, Endeavour is set to travel on a 16-day voyage to install a platform on the ISS, allowing astronauts to conduct experiments in the vacuum of space, 350 kilometers (220 miles) above Earth's surface.

It is the last of three missions to assemble the Japanese Kibo laboratory aboard the orbiting space station.

The race is on to finish construction before NASA ends its shuttle missions in September 2010.

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No leaks in Endeavour's fuel tank: NASA
Washington (AFP) July 1, 2009
The US space shuttle Endeavour has cleared a test for potentially harmful hydrogen gas leaks that twice delayed its high-profile launch, NASA said Wednesday. Engineers from the US space agency seemed to have successfully repaired the external fuel tank of the shuttle, which is waiting to embark on its final mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with a seven-member crew. To tes ... read more

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