Cape Canaveral (Florida): Cloudy weather and strong winds boosted the likelihood of a delay to the planned launch of the space shuttle Endeavour from 20 to 30 per cent, NASA said.
Endeavour`s final space flight, and the penultimate shuttle liftoff, is drawing hundreds of thousands of onlookers to the area around Cape Canaveral, including President Barack Obama and his family who plan to watch it from the Kennedy Space Centre on Friday.
The 30-year space shuttle program will end for good after the final launch by Atlantis, planned for late June.
The same weather front that brought deadly storms to the southern state of Alabama is dampening the forecast in Florida, too, though the worst should pass by Friday morning, according to NASA weather officer Kathy Winters.
"Our big concerns are crosswinds and (low cloud) ceilings lingering in the area," Winters said.
NASA yesterday said the rotating service structure (RSS) around the shuttle would be rolled away at 0700 hrs IST today, about an hour and a half later than planned, due to a possible storm that was predicted to pass over Kennedy Space Centre.
However the delay, announced last evening, would not affect the launch time of 0117 hrs IST today, NASA said.
"Teams currently have begun support work that normally occurs following the RSS move, which allows the countdown to continue as planned to support Friday`s 3:47 pm launch," NASA said.
If weather forces a delay, NASA has other launch windows set for Saturday and Sunday.
The six-member crew aboard Endeavour for its 14-day mission to the International Space Station includes one Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency.
The shuttle is being commanded by US astronaut Mark Kelly, whose lawmaker wife Gabrielle Giffords is also going to attend the launch.
She was shot in the head at a grocery store political meeting in January, and has been undergoing months of difficult rehab due to a left brain injury.