Swift spacecraft
NASA/GSFC/Spectrum Astro
An artist's interpretation of the Swift spacecraft in flight, with a gamma-ray burst exploding behind it.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/18/2004 2:41:42 PM ET 2004-11-18T19:41:42

NASA has delayed the launch of a spacecraft that will hunt for emerging black holes until Saturday at the earliest.

The launch was postponed Wednesday, with just hours left in the countdown, because of trouble with an electronic box aboard the unmanned Delta 2 rocket. The box is part of the safety system for destroying the vehicle if it flies off course. The equipment was being repaired Thursday and will be retested Friday.

If the repairs are successful, NASA's Swift spacecraft would be sent into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The hourlong launch window opens at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday, and forecasters said the chances of acceptable weather for launch were at 90 percent.

Once in orbit, Swift will swivel quickly to detect gamma-ray bursts in the universe, which scientists believe represent the creation of black holes. Black holes are believed to be the invisible remains of collapsed stars; black holes’ gravitational pull is so great that not even light can escape from one.

Besides NASA, the Italian Space Agency and Britain’s particle physics and astronomy research council are taking part in the $250 million mission.

This report includes information from MSNBC's Alan Boyle and The Associated Press.

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