Still no joy for Atlas 5

Atlas 5 awaits launch at pad 41 early Friday

UPDATE for Saturday at 3:40 a.m. EDT -- The Atlas 5 launch targeted for liftoff this Saturday morning at 3:59 a.m. was scrubbed because of a hardware problem on the rocket. The United Launch Alliance team will have to move the Atlas 5 back into its hangar to make repairs. That whole process will take a couple of days. In the meantime, SpaceX is next up to bat with a missions set to fly on Wednesday at 6:53 p.m. EDT.

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A lingering thunderstorm that refused to move out of the way in time kept United Launch Alliance from sending its Atlas 5 rocket into space early Friday morning. They will try again on Saturday.

Liftoff of the 194-foot-tall rocket was originally set for 4:03 a.m. EDT Friday, and while technically everything went well as Launch Complex 41. the tropical wave moving past Florida threatened throughout the countdown.

After delaying the launch 28 minutes in hope of clearing conditions, the launch team set up for final try at 4:31 a.m. and counted down to within about 90 seconds of launch when the weather officer called "hold. hold, hold" and stopped the clock.

An offshore thunderstorm remained too close to the flight path of the rocket, violating strict launch rules.

Moments later the ULA launch director announced the mission was scrubbed and that they would try again early Saturday. Liftoff is targeted for 3:59 a.m. EDT. Weather conditions are expected to be a little better than tonight, but it's not a done deal.

Tonight's scrub shouldn't affect SpaceX's plans for its next launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. Earlier Friday they announced their next shot -- a commercial satellite delivery mission -- was moved to Wednesday for what is believed to be a technical issue.

That Falcon 9 mission is targeted to fly at 6:53 p.m. EDT, just five minutes before sunset.

-- Jim Banke

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