Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lightning delays NASA space shuttle launch

Updated on : Sunday, July 12, 2009

CAPE CANAVERAL: A dramatic lightning storm forced NASA to delay the space shuttle Endeavour's launch on Saturday, pushing takeoff to late Sunday, in the latest blow to the seven-astronaut mission.

With just nine hours to go before liftoff, NASA said the launch would be scrapped, citing 11 lightning strikes near the Cape Canaveral launch site during a powerful electrical storm late Friday.

"We decided we are going to take 24 more hours to continue to review our data," said Mike Moses, the head of the mission.

Moses later announced that the launch was rescheduled for 7:13 pm (2313 GMT) Sunday, and said the weather forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions for takeoff.

After the lightning storm overnight, NASA technical teams were dispatched to examine the shuttle for damage.

Spokesman George Diller said there was "no damage found on the shuttle or on the pad systems," but that engineers needed to examine whether the lightning could have caused other problems.

NASA said the lightning strikes were within 0.3 nautical miles (0.6 kilometers) of the pad, with several of them striking the wiring system designed to protect the shuttle from taking direct lightning hits.

Moses said NASA would examine the space shuttle orbiter and the solid rocket boosters further to "be 100 percent confident that we have a good system across the board."

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