May 3, 2011

Endeavour Launch Delayed Until May 10

Endeavour's final mission into space has been delayed yet again. NASA officials say that the next liftoff attempt will not happen before May 10.

A glitch in the fuse box that controls a fuel line heater is the culprit for the missed launch on Friday.

NASA managers replaced a suspect electronics box that routes power to the heaters on the auxiliary generator on Sunday. The replacement required extra time to retest the 70 to 80 impacted systems on the shuttle, which had initially pushed the launch back to May 8.

"The plan is to remove and replace the box, but that work and related testing will take several days to complete," NASA says.

After an overnight assessment, the managers decided on Monday to push the launch date back again; this time aiming for May 10 as a more realistic target date.

"NASA space shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday, May 10 is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission," the US space agency said in a statement.

A final decision as to whether May 10 will stick as the next launch attempt will be made this Friday.

"Plans are for managers to reconvene Friday to determine a more definite launch date after the box is removed and replaced and the retest of systems has been completed," officials say.

Endeavour's final flight into space will carry a $2 billion, seven-ton particle physics detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, along with a pallet of spare parts to the International Space Station.

The space shuttle's six member crew of astronauts has left Florida, and will wait for the next launch attempt at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where they will continue with more missions training.

U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife is Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will command the 14-day mission. Giffords was seriously injured during a shooting in January and is expected to return to the Florida space port to watch her husband's launch again, reports Reuters.

Disappointed people, who showed up to view the second-to-last shuttle launch, will have to wait a little longer for Endeavour's final take off at the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA will launch its final mission in June with the space shuttle Atlantis, bringing an end to 30 years of the U.S. shuttle program.


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