NASA fuels shuttle Atlantis in last-launch test

By MARCIA DUNN | June 15, 2011 | 12:56 PM EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is fueling space shuttle Atlantis. But it's only a test.

The last launch of the shuttle program isn't until July 8. But shuttle managers want to make sure that repairs to the external fuel tank are good and that no cracks pop up in any support brackets.

Ground controllers began pumping a half-million gallons of super cold fuel into Atlantis' tank Wednesday. The three-hour operation was delayed several hours by thunderstorms that pounded Cape Canaveral on Tuesday. Three lightning strikes were reported near the pad. Preliminary checks show nothing was damaged, although a power circuit went offline.

Last November, fuel tank cracks kept shuttle Discovery grounded for four months for repairs. The same kind of patches were used for Atlantis.