NASA officials decided on Saturday to delay the launch of space shuttle Atlantis by 24 hours to give engineers more time to determine whether one of the most powerful lightning strikes ever at a Kennedy Space Center launch pad caused any problems.
The launch, planned for Sunday, now will not happen until at least Monday. It was the first time a lightning strike at the launch pad had caused a shuttle launch delay.
The lightning on Friday did not hit the shuttle - it struck a wire attached to a tower used to protect the spacecraft from such strikes at the launch pad - but it created a lightning field around the vehicle, NASA managers said.
There was no indication that any system was damaged, but if repairs were needed they would likely take days, not weeks, said launch integration manager.
Technicians reported a charred smell coming from that area.
"We'll open up some cable trays to make sure there's nothing burned down inside," launch director Mike Leinbach said. The lightning strike at the launch pad was more than three times stronger than the average lightning strike and thousands of times more powerful than an electric chair, said Vladimir Rakov, co-director of the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing at the University of Florida.