Ernesto delays US shuttle launch

Nasa has cancelled Tuesday's shuttle launch and is preparing to move Atlantis indoors as tropical storm Ernesto moves closer.

    Storm Ernesto nears Cape Canaveral

    The National Hurricane Centre's forecast on Monday morning put Ernesto's track almost directly over Kennedy Space Centre for late Wednesday or early Thursday, and listed a nearly 50 per cent chance of tropical storm force winds.

     

    If Nasa does decides to move Atlantis, it will not start until Tuesday, allowing engineers a chance to launch on September 3 if Ernesto's track moves away from Florida, a spokesman said on Monday.

     

    Nasa is keeping an eye on tropical storm Ernesto, which forecasts show could regain hurricane strength before striking western Florida later this week.

     

    Weather-related events have frustrated Nasa's attempts to launch its first International Space Station construction mission in nearly four years.

     

    The shuttle has been cleared of any damage after a lightning strike on Friday.

     

    Looming deadline

     

    Ideally, Nasa wants to lift off by September 7 to avoid any conflict with a Russian Soyuz rocket mission.

     

    Once it launches, Atlantis will carry six astronauts and a 16-tonne segment with two huge solar panels for the half-finished space station.

     

    It would be the first of 16 flights planned to complete assembly of the space station by 2010, when the shuttle fleet is set to retire.

     

    The Atlantis mission will be the third shuttle flight since Columbia blew up after its heatshield, which was damaged by falling debris on lift-off, failed on re-entry.

     

    After two Discovery shuttle flights in the past two years aimed at improving safety, Nasa said it was ready to resume construction of the station, which is key to US plans to send  humans to Mars.

     

    The installation of the solar panels will provide a quarter of the station's power and is one of the most complex  parts of the assembly sequence.

     

    Three spacewalks are planned during the 11-day Atlantis mission, which will be followed by another shuttle flight planned for December.

     

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?

    Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?

    Is an empowered Palestinian girl not worthy of Western feminist admiration?

    Blood-rusted Sword: Elite force of Saudi crown prince

    Blood-rusted Sword: Elite force of Saudi crown prince

    Al-Ajrab Sword Brigade, formed in 2015, comprises elite forces from across Saudi military ranks.

    Why some African Americans are moving to Africa

    Escaping systemic racism: Why I quit New York for Accra

    African-Americans are returning to the lands of their ancestors as life becomes precarious and dangerous in the USA.