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NASA delays Hubble mission by 5 days

NASA is delaying next month's shuttle launch to the Hubble Space Telescope because of problems stemming from Hurricane Ike and replacement parts for the observatory.
Image: USA Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew Walk Out From O&C at Kennedy Space Center Florida
Atlantis commander Scott Altman waves to onlookers as he and his crewmates head out to Launch Complex 39A on Wednesday for a rehearsal of their launch to the Hubble Space Telescope. From left are pilot Gregory Johnson, John Grunsfeld, Megan McArthur, Altman, Michael Good, Andrew Feustel and Mike Massimino.Gary I. Rothstein / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

NASA is delaying next month’s shuttle launch to the Hubble Space Telescope because of problems stemming from Hurricane Ike and the preparation of replacement parts for the observatory.

The space shuttle Atlantis is now set to blast off at 10:19 p.m. ET on Oct. 14 for the last visit to the orbiting telescope, officials said Wednesday. Liftoff had been scheduled for the wee hours of Oct. 10, technically making this a five-day postponement.

Senior managers will reassess the launch date next week.

Atlantis’ seven astronauts, who wrapped up a practice countdown at the launching site Wednesday, lost a week of training because of Hurricane Ike. The hurricane shut down the Johnson Space Center in Houston, which did not reopen until this week.

Payload problems also contributed to the delay. Last week, NASA had trouble with the insulation on replacement batteries for Hubble and, over the weekend, encountered snags loading the equipment at the launch pad.

The delay also pushes back the launch of Endeavour’s space station mission to Nov. 16. Endeavour will serve as the rescue ship for Atlantis, if needed. It is the first time that NASA has ever had a space shuttle on the launch pad, ready to blast off as a rescue ship if there is an emergency.

Tropical storms Fay and Hanna, which held up work at the launch site, prompted NASA earlier this month to put off the Hubble flight by two days. The original launch date was Oct. 8.