Countdown Begins for Final Space Shuttle Flight

Image above: The STS-135 crew members arrive at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility for final launch preparations on the Fourth of July. From left are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA Mission Update — The countdown for the final space shuttle launch began today at 1 p.m. EDT, starting at the T-43 hour mark. However, the launch-day weather forecast looks less than favorable for Friday’s 11:26 a.m. liftoff.

At the 10 a.m. precountdown status briefing this morning, NASA Test Director Jeremy Graeber reported space shuttle Atlantis is ready for flight, and STS-135 payload manager Joe Delai said the payloads are ready to go as well. The only issue standing in the way of liftoff on Friday is a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms developing along the sea-breeze front reported Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer.

After flying to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida yesterday, the STS-135 astronauts today are reviewing their flight data file and conducting checks of their launch and entry suits.

At Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39A, technicians have completed space shuttle Atlantis’ aft confidence checks and final preparations of the main propulsion system.

Despite storms in the area over the extended weekend, there were no reports of adverse weather or lightning strikes inside the launch pad.