NASA postpones Atlantis for 48 hours

by Chris Bergin

NASA has announced that Shuttle Atlantis’ launch has been postponed to at least Tuesday.

Further tests are also required on Atlantis following yesterday’s lightning strike – the largest strike ever to hit the launch pad – including checks on the Hydrogen Vent Arm, which engineers have noted as a “charred” smell.

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While the weather has continued to worsen the prospects of Atlantis having favourable conditions to launch, the storms that have been heading over the Cape over previous days also carried a lightning strike that hit the launch pad yesterday.

‘We did have a lightning strike to the pad and we’re carrying out all out tests and procedures, but right now we see no problems with the vehicle,’ said Launch Director Mike Leinbach – and those tests are still to be completed.

Leinbach noted that the protection system at the pad protects the orbiter from damage, although a full suite of tests need to be carried out to confirm the orbiter and the pad infrastructure has not been affected.

RSS rollback was scheduled for this evening, after fuel cell loading had been completed, but the structure will now remain in place for another 48 hours, in preparation for the next scheduled attempt on Tuesday.

The launch attempt on Tuesday is schedule for 4pm local time (9pm UK time).

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