By Tuesday, the chances of launching remained at 60-percent, according to Kathy Winter, NASA’s weather officer who heads a team of 40 at KSC. Not good, not bad.
By Wednesday morning, July 6, 2011, when NASA held a Prelaunch Press Conference at the media site at the Kennedy Space Center, Ms Winters was rating the chance of favorable weather at a measly 30-percent. The other members of the launch team, Mike Moses, Mission Management Team chairman and Shuttle Launch Integration manager, and Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director, considered the shuttle ready to go. “Clear tracks to lift off.”
Except for the weather. A big “except”, indeed.
By Wednesday, Mr. Leinbach and Mr. Moses were waxing philosophical. “I’m feeling good about Friday,” Mr. Moses said. “It could be raining everywhere, but if we’ve got a hole and a 20-mile radius, we’re going.” That’s a big “if”.
“Typical July,” Ms. Winters added.
Would they tank the shuttle if the weather was iffy? Tanking begins about ten hours before launch. “We’ve tanked with a 90-percent no-go, and launched,” Mr. Moses said. “We’ve tanked with an 80-percent go, and been unable to launch.”
So … will the weather cooperate? Will Atlantis arc skyward in its narrow launch window on Friday morning, July 8?
Don’t bet on it. The weather briefing at 1 am Friday morning, when tanking is scheduled to begin, will be the next significant marker deciding whether the Atlantis goes on Friday or not.