Weather threatens to delay start of Endeavour's ISS mission
December 2, 1998
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- The shuttle Endeavour is ready to carry its six-person crew and a vital part up to begin construction of the International Space Station, but weather conditions could delay the start of the historic mission.
Endeavour is scheduled to launch Thursday, with a window from 3:54 to 4:04 a.m. EST.
"If clouds and/or showers are north, south, east or west of us, we're good to go. If they're right overhead, then we've got a problem," said shuttle weather officer Ed Priselac. "Whether we get off the ground is going to be a crap shoot."
Priselac said a forecast of a cloud ceiling of 4,000 feet and possible showers meant there was a 60 percent chance of keeping the space shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad.
NASA launch constraints require the shuttle to be visible at 8,000 feet after launch. If Endeavour misses the Thursday lift-off, launch control could try again on Friday morning, or stand down for 24 hours and try for Saturday, when the forecast improves.
The forecast for Friday was equally doubtful, but improved to 40 percent chance for showers for Saturday, Priselac said.
Meanwhile, launch preparations continued, with final loading of the fuel tanks scheduled for Wednesday evening.
If Endeavour launches as scheduled on Thursday, the crew will begin its quest to chase a Russian component of the space station, the Zarya power module, through space for two days in a series of tightly choreographed maneuvers before they rendezvous.
The timing of that race is so precise that the shuttle has one 10-minute window in which to launch each day.
Zarya has a faulty battery aboard that the shuttle astronauts may try to fix during their mission. The repair would involve replacing control boxes that prevent one of Zarya's three batteries from working in automatic mode.
A final decision on whether to undertake the repair project will not be made until the crew has pressurized Zarya and inspected the faulty control boxes.
The Endeavour crew's main mission is to connect Zarya to the so-called Unity Node, manufactured in the United States.
The shuttle's robotic arm operator, Nancy Currie, says plucking Zarya from orbit will be a challenge.
"I think some of the difficulties are in the tight tolerances that we are talking about," Currie explained to CNN.
Currie's job is to delicately move the 25,000 pound power module to within four inches and four degrees of alignment from Unity.
After that, space walkers Jerry Ross and Jim Newman are scheduled to strap on space tool belts and step out of the shuttle to connect cables, handrails, tethers and antennas.
The work assigned to Ross and Newman is scheduled to be done over three space walks.
The Unity Node will serve as a connector for future modules and a docking spot for shuttles.
Correspondent Miles O'Brien and Reuters contributed to this report.
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