Repair work on a malfunctioning heater has caused NASA to again push back the launch date of its space shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle is now scheduled to blast off on its final mission no earlier than 16 May from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Endeavour, the youngest of the US space program’s orbiters, and her crew of six astronauts was to have lift off today, delivering a US$2bn particle physics experiment to the International Space Station. Its original launch date was 29 April.
The launch delay is down to a switch box that contained a blown circuit. Engineers have installed a new box, but more testing is required before the shuttle lifts off.
Upon completion of its two-week and 25th mission, NASA will retire Endeavour to a museum in Los Angeles.
The space shuttle Atlantis will then be the only shuttle still in active service, and it is expected to make its final journey in the next few months.
NASA is retiring the shuttles because of high operating costs and the need to free up funds for work on a new launch system that can carry people and cargo beyond the space station’s orbit, where shuttles can’t go.
Endeavour, which was built to replace the space shuttle Challenger that broke apart on liftoff in 1986, has travelled a cumulative distance in space of 166m km.