Terrible Weather Will Probably Delay Atlantis Launch

People in the southeast United States are cleaning up from a powerful weather front that unleashed a series of devastating tornadoes across the landscape. At least 48 people are dead, and hundreds more are injured. And as you can probably guess, this weather could have an impact on tomorrow’s launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

NASA’s shuttle launch weather officer, Kathy Winters said today that, “the storm prediction center is forecasting a five percent chance of severe weather in the central Florida area tomorrow. I think we could see isolated thunderstorms in the area.”

This is the same weather system that spawned all those tornadoes. In fact, tornado watches are still in effect in various parts of the southeast, including the western Florida panhandle; relatively nearby Cape Canaveral.

Not that tornadoes are expected to savage the launch facility. Still, managers are anticipating a 70% chance that heavy rains will prevent the shuttle from blasting off. Rain is a problem because it can damage the shuttle’s thermal protection system during its high-speed launch.

Although the weather is still a worry, there are no technical reasons remaining that could hold up Atlantis‘ launch. The issue with the malfunctioning fuel gauges has been resolved, and managers aren’t worried about a bent coolant hose that supplies Freon to keep the shuttle cool when it’s in space.

So, the expected launch date is still Thursday at 2:45 p.m. EST. And if that window closes, they’ll aim for a 2:19 p.m. EST launch on Friday.

Original Source: NASA Status Report

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