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Shuttle mission postponed 'til Independence Day

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The launch of space Shuttle Discovery has been delayed by bad weather for the second day in a row, and mission controllers have said they won't try for another launch until Independence Day.

The launch was scrubbed with two hours and 11 minutes left on the countdown, after the mission's seven-strong crew had been in their flight seats for almost an hour.

Rain and a brewing thunderstorm over the Kennedy Space Centre meant at least four of the conditions for launch were not met. Cumulus clouds, the presence of lightning, and high altitude anvil clouds are all immediate red flags for a launch.

"We went red this morning and stayed red," Air Force Lt Kaleb Nordgren of the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral told The LA Times.

The weather is expected to improve over the next 24 hours, and NASA says it will try for a launch at 11:37 PDT on Tuesday 4 July.

NASA engineers will stay busy while the launch is postponed, as the fuel cells' stores of hydrogen and oxygen will by now need to be re-filled to give the crew enough fuel to extend the mission by a day, if necessary. To do this, the engineers will need to roll the service gantry back out to Shuttle's launch pad.

The cost of postponing the launch is around a million dollars, according to launch director Michael Leinbach, making the weekend's dark clouds a very expensive inconvenience.

This launch will be the 115th time a Shuttle has blasted off from the US, but only the second since the loss of Columbia. ®

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