Monday, July 31, 2006

Solar spacecraft launch delayed

NASA has delayed the launch of a solar research mission until noearlier than Aug. 31 to allow inspectors to check out a suspect tankon its Delta 2 rocket.An oxidizer tank on a similar Delta 2 rocket at an Alabama factory hasprompted the need for all such tanks to be checked out before launch.The second stage can't be checked out while still on top of the firststage at Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Therocket therefore will be taken apart and taking a nearby test facilityfor leak checks. The de-stacking work begins Tuesday and will takeabout a week.The twin STEREO spacecraft are observatories that study eruptions fromthe surface of the sun. The events are potentially dangerous becausethey start magnetic storms when they reach Earth, damagingcommunications satellites and causing power outages on the ground. Thetwo spacecraft will give NASA an unprecedented 3D look at the spawningof such solar storms.Launch had been set for Aug. 20, but the tank checkout will force itback at least 11 days and perhaps longer.posted by John Kelly at Florida Today

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