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‘Venus Express’ space probe launch delayed

The launch of the European Space Agency's "Venus Express" spacecraft has been delayed after technicians discovered contamination in the Russian-made launcher.
/ Source: Reuters

The launch of the European Space Agency's "Venus Express" spacecraft has been delayed after technicians discovered contamination in the Russian-made launcher, an ESA official said on Monday.

Europe's first mission to Venus was scheduled for Wednesday but will be delayed for several days while tests are carried out on the Soyuz-Fregat launcher, a spokesman at the agency's European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt said.

The tests on the covering of the carrier rockets where the contamination was discovered at the weekend will only take a few days, the spokesman said.  After that, the spacecraft should be launched as planned from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The Venus Express probe will travel through space for around 163 days and once it is captured by Venusian gravity, it will orbit the planet and analyze its atmosphere and clouds.

Among the mysteries about Venus the mission hopes to solve is why a planet so similar to Earth in size, mass and composition has evolved so differently over the course of the last 4,600 million years.