'Endeavour' shuttle launch postponed, rescheduled for 6:51 p.m. Monday

CAPE CANAVERAL — The sunny weather most of Sunday was just a tease for astronauts set to fly the space shuttle Endeavour.

Especially those four anticipating their first trip into space.

An early-evening storm forced NASA to scrub the launch just 11 minutes before the scheduled 7:13 p.m. liftoff, hours after the astronauts were strapped in.

It's the fourth delay for the mission but the first time the astronauts made it into the shuttle. Previous attempts were canceled hours before planned takeoff.

The launch has been rescheduled for 6:51 p.m. Monday.

The launch was scratched twice in June because of a potentially explosive hydrogen fuel leak and then again Saturday because of lightning strikes near the launch pad. On Sunday, the problem once again was lightning, but also rain that would have prevented the shuttle from returning to the launch pad if there were an emergency.

Endeavour is delivering the final pieces for construction of Japan's Kibo laboratory on the space station. During the 16-day mission, astronauts will install Kibo's so-called "front porch" outside the space station. It will allow experiments that require direct exposure to space. During the mission, a robotic arm will debut its ability to transfer experiments to and from the platform from inside the shuttle.

Kibo — which means "hope" in Japanese — is the country's major contribution to the space station.

Four of the seven astronauts on board the Endeavour — pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Thomas Marshburn and Timothy Kopra — are making their first trips to space. The entire team will join the six resident astronauts on the space station. The 13 will be the largest number of people on the craft at the same time.

Kopra will stay on board the space station as a flight engineer and science officer when Endeavour returns to Earth, bringing with it Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata after more than three months on board.

This is the 29th shuttle flight to the station, and the 23rd for Endeavour. Seven flights to the space station remain before the shuttles are scheduled for retirement in 2010.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this story used in print and online misspelled the name of the shuttle orbiter Endeavour.

'Endeavour' shuttle launch postponed, rescheduled for 6:51 p.m. Monday 07/12/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 12:40pm]

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