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Space Shuttle Launch Delayed Until January 2

Space Shuttle Launch Delayed Until January 2

The U.S. space agency has postponed the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis until January because of problems with the shuttle's fuel sensor system.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Sunday the shuttle will be launched no earlier than 2 January 2008.

Atlantis was scheduled to go into space Sunday, but NASA cancelled the launch because one of the sensors on the shuttle's hydrogen fuel tank was not working properly. Another launch attempt on Thursday was scrapped after two of the four fuel sensors malfunctioned. The sensor system is intended to trigger an engine shutoff if the shuttle unexpectedly runs short on fuel.

Atlantis was slated for an 11-day mission to deliver a European-made space laboratory to the International Space Station.

Named Columbus, the laboratory will join U.S. and Russian-made components on the space station.

The 17-nation European Space Agency also is developing a system to launch automated missions that will deliver supplies to the space station next year.

A Japanese lab, the Kibo, is scheduled for delivery to the space station early next year.

NASA is in a hurry to complete construction of the International Space Station before the shuttle program ends in 2010. The program has been delayed by accidents that destroyed two shuttles, in 1986 and in 2003, and numerous technical problems.


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