Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of seven are en route to the International Space Station, after launching through more of the same kind of weather that had kept it grounded through the weekend.
Liftoff from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., came at 6:03 p.m. EDT, as thunderstorms and other weather that had threatened to violate flight rules earlier in the day backed away from the 20-mile range that would have prevented the launch. The mission had been scrubbed five times since June 13, twice for a gaseous hydrogen leak and then for weather.
"The weather is now cooperating, so it is now time to fly." launch director Mike Leinbach radioed Endeavour's crew as the countdown entered its final phase.
The 16-day STS-127 mission now underway will be one of the most complex ever in space. While docked at the ISS the Endeavour crew will deliver the final element of Japan's Kibo laboratory module -- a porchlike exposed facility -- and outfit it with its first set of experiments.
Over the course of five spacewalks and carefully planned robotics operations they will also deliver three large spare parts to be used after the shuttle fleet retires next year, when the only spacecraft visiting the station will be too small to carry them. And they will replace the station's oldest set of batteries at the far port end of the station truss.
The combined station and shuttle crews include representatives of all of the station partner-agencies for the first time. It will also be the first time a total of 13 space travelers will be in orbit together on the two docked spacecraft.