Storms delay Discovery lift-off

CAPE CANAVERAL: The space shuttle Discovery remained firmly on the ground on Tuesday after NASA scrapp-ed a first launch attempt due to thunderstorms. The US space agency called off the launch minutes before the shuttle was due to blast off for the orbiting International Space Station, saying it would make another attempt on Wednesday at 1:10 am (0510 GMT).

“We have a scrub for the day,” said launch director Pete Nickolenko. “Unfortunately, the local weather has not cooperated.” Cloud formations, storms and rain were within a 35-km radius of launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The weather unexpectedly worsened hours before the lift-off. It cleared minutes before the launch — but too late to give the all-clear.

The astronauts were onboard, along with a new bedroom, a treadmill, a freezer, food and other supplies Discovery is set to deliver during its 13-day mission.

It will also be dropping off the latest ISS resident — US astronaut Nicole Stott.

The delay was a reminder of the turbulence that surrounded the previous shuttle mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, which was postponed five times by weather woes and technical glitches.

Forecasters saw a 70 per cent chance of favourable weather on Wednesday, dropping to 60 per cent on Thursday. Stott will be taking over from engineer and fellow American Tim Kopra, who has been aboard the ISS since July and is returning to Earth with Discovery.

The shuttle crew, led by Commander Rick Sturckow, will be delivering 6.8 tonnes of cargo transported in a pressurised module called Leonardo that was built by the Italian space agency.