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Weather Concerns Postpone Shuttle Launch

By Mark Stencel

Six astronauts remain earthbound this morning after weather forced NASA to delay the launch of space shuttle Endeavour on a two-week mission to the International Space Station.

After keeping a wary eye on the cloud cover over and near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA scrubbed the pre-dawn launch at 4:30 a.m., shortly before coming out of a planned hold at T-minus 9 minutes.

Florida Today reports there were also concerns about whether elsewhere:

It's not just local weather managers have to worry about for launch — also conditions at abort landing sites in the U.S. and Europe. Those conditions may be deteriorating at some locations, managers say.

There were no technical issues before the decision to postpone the liftoff. The space agency's immediate plans are to try again in 24 hours, if weather improves. Tuesday also is an option.

The next available launch time: 4:14 a.m. ET on Monday.

The main goal of Endeavour's 13-day mission is to deliver the long-awaited Tranquility module to the space station. The purpose of the module is to help station crews observe space walks and other activities outside their sprawling oribital outpost. But Tranquility's seven-window cupola also is expected to provide some of the most spectacular views in five decades of human space flight, as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce described on Friday's All Things Considered:

Endeavour's hosts on the station include two crew members who have been in space since Sept. 30 and three members who arrived in December.

Endeavour's flight is the shuttle program's last planned night launch. NASA expects to mothball the shuttle's remaining three-ship fleet later this year after astronauts wrap up construction of the space station. Only five more shuttle launches are scheduled, including Endeavour's. The shuttle's final flight is currently slated for mid-September.

If Endeavour cannot get its crew and payload off the pad on Monday or Tuesday, the shuttle team will yield to the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a five-year unmanned science mission the space agency had planned to launch on Tuesday. This morning's delay means the orbiting observatory's launch will be no sooner than Wednesday.

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