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Fifth Time’s The Charm for Shuttle?

NASA on Monday will try for a fifth time to launch shuttle Endeavour, after thunderstorms rolled near Kennedy Space Center at just the wrong time Sunday.

"We got the vehicle ready, and the weather unfortunately did not cooperate with us today," launch director Pete Nickolenko radioed to Endeavour commander Mark Polansky about 10 minutes before the targeted 7:13 p.m. liftoff time.

"We understand, and we'll be ready," Polansky replied from Endeavour's crew cabin.

Polansky and six crewmates hope to blast off at 6:51 p.m. Monday.

Overnight, NASA planned to replace a torn cover on one of Endeavour's engine pods. The agency said the work would take about four hours and should not prevent a Monday launch.

The Air Force has forecast a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather Monday, slightly worse than Sunday's odds.

The shuttle's planned 16-day mission to the International Space Station has been delayed a month.

Leaks of hydrogen gas during fueling scrubbed launch attempts on June 13 and June 17.

NASA fixed that problem, but is now contending with summer weather patterns notoriously difficult for late afternoon and early evening launches.

On Friday, 11 lightning strikes near launch pad 39A led mission managers to postpone Saturday's planned liftoff. Engineers needed time to make sure electrical surges had not damaged critical shuttle systems.

That assurance came Sunday morning, and most of Endeavour's countdown proceeded without incident under clear skies.

By about 5 p.m., the crew had strapped into their seats.

But approaching storms soon became a concern. They ultimately violated two launch criteria, pushing within 20 miles of the shuttle landing site - a problem in the event of an early launch abort - and within 10 miles of the launch pad.

Endeavour's crew members plan to deliver and install the third and final piece of Japan's Kibo science complex at the station. They'll conduct five spacewalks.

Tuesday might be Endeavour's last chance to launch before July 27 because of an unmanned Russian cargo ship heading to the station later this month. Negotiations with the Russian Federal Space Agency could make Wednesday an option.

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