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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – A tropical wave rolling in from the Bahamas with nasty weather in tow is likely to scrub Friday’s planned shuttle launch, a NASA official said.

“It is not looking favorable for launch right now,” shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters told the press Wednesday. “We’re going to have some showers and even potentially some thunderstorms in the area by launch time.”

That means a 70 percent likelihood of scrubbing Friday’s launch, Winters said.

Should the launch be rescheduled for Saturday, the outlook improves slightly, to a 60 percent chance that weather will prohibit launch. On Sunday, the prospects are better than even, with a 60 percent likelihood of good weather, she said.

No decisions have been made about when the launch might be rescheduled if weather delays it longer than Sunday, said Mike Moses, mission management team chair

Though the forecast looks grim for an on-schedule launch, Moses said launches have occurred that were preceded by even worse forecasts. Mechanically, he said, the shuttle is on track for launch.

“It could be pouring everywhere else in county, but if we get that hole in the clouds, we go,” Moses said. “The only way to make sure we don’t launch that day is to not try.”

Mission managers said in the event of a launch delay Friday, it’s likely the next attempt would be Sunday, despite the fact that a launch window exists Saturday. Traffic in the area is expected to be so bad -– with trips normally measured in minutes taking hours -– that officials fear NASA workers might not have time to get proper rest if they have to return the next morning.

Up to 750,000 spectators are expected to clog roads around Kennedy Space Center on Friday, but the numbers could rise for a weekend launch, according to estimates from local law enforcement officials.

carrollc@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_


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