NASA officials gave the green light for another attempt Tuesday to launch the space shuttle Discovery after rain squalls threatening Florida's coastline began to diminish tonight.
Just before 10 p.m., the order was given to load 143,000 gallons of supercold liquid oxygen and 385,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen into the giant external fuel tank mated to Discovery's fuselage.
A tropical "depression" that had moved toward Florida from Cuba today apparently began to dissipate when it touched land. Forecasters who had predicted that the depression would shower rain over the launch pad early Tuesday began to hedge their predictions tonight.
"There apparently will be showers and thunderstorms in the vicinity of the pad in the morning but we believe they will be far off shore," National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman James Mizell said. "We think we'll get off in time on Tuesday."
The launch window opens at 6:55 a.m. EDT and closes at 7:49 a.m.
NASA plans to bring the countdown to the 20-minute mark and stop to assess the weather. The count will be resumed and stopped again at the nine-minute mark for another weather appraisal.
If the weather looks as if it will be acceptable 20 minutes before launch, the count will resume immediately and Discovery will be launched at 6:55 a.m. If not, the count will be held as long as possible in the hope that the weather improves before the window closes at 7:49.
If Discovery doesn't leave Earth on Tuesday, launch directors plan to try again Wednesday.
Discovery can be launched as late as Thursday and still fulfill all its mission goals, which include the deployment in orbit of three communications satellites and an attempt to revive a Navy communications satellite that has been dead in orbit since last April.
Earlier in the day, Air Force Lt. Scott Funk, the shuttle weather officer, said the storm system contained clouds, rain, thunder and lightning but few strong winds.