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Atlantis countdown resumes

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NASA is ramping things up again ahead of the rescheduled launch of the Shuttle Atlantis this Wednesday 6 September.

The launch was originally scheduled for 27 August, but a lightning strike followed by the almost-hurricane Ernesto meant the countdown had to be halted.

Ernesto looked quite menacing, but was officially a mere Tropical Depression by the time he passed over Kennedy Space Centre at the end of last week.

The countdown has resumed and Shuttle is now scheduled to take off at 11:29am CDT on Wednesday.

Although the weather forecast for Wednesday is good, mission managers have a small cushion of two days if things become less clement. The craft must take to the skies by Friday or the flight will have to be pushed back to late October.

The International Space Station is expecting a Russian crew on 18 September and NASA has agreed tol stand aside so the Russians can continue as planned. The Soyuz rocket will carry two new residents for the ISS, as well as the first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari.

Once in orbit, the crew will install a new $372m solar power system over the course of three spacewalks. It is the first major resumption of construction activity on the space station since the loss of Columbia in 2003. ®

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