Shuttle set to launch after 24-hour delay

Image from NASA TV shows a lightning strike Friday night near the shuttle launch pad.
NASA began preparing for a launch of space shuttle Endeavour on Sunday, a day after liftoff was postponed over concerns of possible effects from a lightning storm.

External tank fueling began just before 10 a.m. Sunday, with a planned launch time of 7:13 p.m., NASA said. “The forecast is 70 percent ‘go’ for liftoff,” the space agency said on its Web site. Endeavour had been scheduled to take off at 7:39 p.m. Saturday. Eleven lightning strikes hit within a half-mile of the launch pad Friday night, Mike Moses, the space shuttle program integration manager, told reporters Saturday. Watch lightning strike the shuttle launch pad » “We need to be 100 percent confident that we have a good system across the board. … [We’re going to] spend 24 more hours to just make sure that we’re good,” Moses said. View behind-the-scenes images of Endeavour » Endeavour’s launch was postponed twice last month because of a liquid hydrogen leak. Endeavour, carrying seven astronauts and a key component for Japan’s Kibo science laboratory, is to head to the International Space Station for a 16-day mission. Five spacewalks are planned for the crew after the shuttle docks. View an interactive of what mission will do in space » The Kibo science lab, also called the Japanese Experiment Module, is Japan’s first human space facility and has been more than 20 years in the making.

The mission’s primary goal will be to install what amounts to a porch in space. Endeavour is carrying in its cargo bay two platforms for the Kibo lab, which is already part of the space station. One platform rides up and back on the shuttle, while the other will stay permanently fixed to the Kibo laboratory for scientific experiments that require exposure to space. For many of the 16 days, the station will resemble a construction site, except that astronauts will be in space suits instead of hard hats and operating robotic arms instead of cranes. And just like at a job site, it will all be going on at the same time.