Lightning strike may be another hitch in final shuttle launch
Jul 7, 2011, 18:43 GMT
Cape Canaveral, Florida - First it was weather: Now a possible lightning strike may prevent the on-time launch Friday of NASA's very last shuttle flight.
With less than 24 hours before the launch, NASA on Thursday was checking whether a nearby lightning strike may have affected the Atlantis shuttle or any of its support equipment on the ground. The 'possible' lightning strike occurred about half a kilometre within the launch pad, NASA said.
NASA also said there continued to be only a 30-per-cent chance of favourable weather for the 1526 GMT liftoff on Friday - a common problem that has frequently delayed liftoffs. A delay until Saturday was possible, but more likely for Sunday, when the weather report was better, NASA said.
As for the lightning strike, engineers were reviewing data 'to determine if the lightning affected space shuttle Atlantis or any of the pad's ground support equipment,' NASA said.
That investigation, however, has been prevented by a continuing band of thunderstorms moving across the region.
That 'detailed pad inspection' however 'must be performed' before support structures can be rolled back from the shuttle launch pad prior to launch, NASA said.