The last Space Shuttle in history that will blast off for space was unveiled today at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida amidst terrible weather. Heavy rain showers and thunderstorms are inundating the space center during prelaunch preparations for the blast off of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Two lightning strikes occurred within about a third of a mile of Launch Pad 39 at 12:31 p.m. and 12:40 p.m. EDT. After engineering teams evaluated data from the strikes, NASA shuttle managers decided it was safe to proceed with launch preparations.
Following about a 40 minute delay, Atlantis was unveiled for liftoff after retraction of the massive rotating service structure which protects the orbiter from inclement weather and impacts from foreign object debris.
The chances of favorable weather for launch of the STS-135 mission on Friday July 8 are just 30%, meaning 70% NO GO said Shuttle Weather officer Kathy Winters at a briefing for reporters today at KSC. Liftoff is targeted for 11:26 a.m. EDT.
NASA has a narrow window of three opportunities on July 8, 9 and 10 and must then stand down for nearly a week because the US Air Force has scheduled a Delta rocket launch on July 14. If the Air Force would agree to delay the Delta by few days, NASA could launch Atlantis on Monday or Tuesday in case for further launch delays.
Upwards of 750,000 spectators are expected.
Atlantis goal is deliver the Raffaello logistics module and the Robotic Refueling Mission to the ISS on a 12 day mission that will end the shuttle era.
Video of Lightning Strike near Shuttle Launch Pad