NASA fuels space shuttle Endeavour for 2nd time in 2 days

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Despite more clouds on the horizon, NASA fuelled Endeavour for the second straight night in hopes of sending the shuttle on the last big space station construction mission.

In this Saturday photo released by NASA

In this Saturday photo released by NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Despite more clouds on the horizon, NASA fuelled Endeavour for the second straight night in hopes of sending the shuttle on the last big space station construction mission.

The launch team began pumping millions of gallons (litres) of fuel into Endeavour, which with its crew of six was scheduled to blast off at 4:14 a.m. (0914 GMT) Monday with a new room and observation deck for the International Space Station.

Sunday morning’s try was spoiled by thick, low clouds. The clouds were back Sunday night, but forecasters said it looked more favourable than the previous night and they put the odds of acceptable conditions at 60 per cent.

It was the last scheduled night launch for the space shuttle program, winding down after nearly 30 years. After this one, just four flights remain.

Commander George Zamka and his crew awoke after sleeping through the afternoon. They will work the overnight shift in orbit during their two-week mission.

If Endeavour does not make it off the ground Monday, NASA officials said they would probably not try again Tuesday, given the exhausting middle-of-the-night schedule. An unmanned rocket with a solar observatory would have a chance to fly next, on Wednesday, and the shuttle would get in line behind that, later in the week.

“That’s space ’biz!” space station commander Jeffrey Williams said in a Twitter update live from orbit. “We on ISS now have some extra prep time.”

Endeavour is loaded with two major payloads: the Tranquility living quarters and a seven-windowed dome that will give space station residents sweeping 360-degree views of their orbital home, as well as Earth and outer space.

Both compartments are courtesy of the European Space Agency. They’re worth more than $400 million.

The space station will be 98 per cent complete once Tranquility and the dome are installed. The Endeavour crew will conduct three spacewalks to hook up everything.

On the Net:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission—pages/shuttle/main/index.html