Weather is NASA's only worry for launch

Weather remains the main obstacle to Saturday's planned launch of space shuttle Endeavour from Kennedy Space Center.

Air Force meteorologists on Thursday reiterated their prediction that thunderstorms and anvil clouds in the area would give the shuttle and its crew a 40 percent chance to blast off on target at 7:39 p.m. Saturday, starting a 16-day International Space Station assembly mission.

"If there's a hole in the clouds, we'll go for it," said Steve Payne, NASA test director, during a morning briefing. "If not, then we'll go for it the next day. But we would rather get it done on Saturday."

Payne reported no technical issues hindering the countdown that began late Wednesday.

Early this morning, Endeavour's three main engines were to be readied for Saturday morning's fueling operation, and an elevated water tank filled with 300,000 gallons of water to suppress sound vibrations at liftoff.

At 11 tonight, KSC workers plan to open the rotating gantry at launch pad 39A, revealing Endeavour on the pad for a third time.

Two launch attempts last month were scrubbed because of potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leaks during fueling. Repairs tested last week appeared to fix the problem.

Endeavour's primary cargo has remained untouched since it was loaded into the payload bay more than a month ago.

The most prominent item is a nearly 8,400-pound "front porch" that will complete construction of Japan's $1 billion Kibo science lab.

The crew, led by mission commander Mark Polansky, plans to carry out five spacewalks.

Payload Manager Scott Higginbotham said minor adjustments were made to the roughly 1,350 pounds of supplies Endeavour will carry in its mid-deck -- one of the bigger loads in recent missions since the station's crew has recently doubled to six residents.

A food locker was swapped for one holding gear including a printer, dry wipes, trash containers and parts for an exercise machine and refrigerator freezer.

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