US Shuttle Endeavor's launch delayed until end of next week

17 November 2002

First the oxygen leak, then a " bruise" on the robot arm and conflict with other launches in Florida, have further forced US space agency NASA to delay the liftoff of space shuttle Endeavor until late next week.

Endeavor is now slated to launch no earlier than Nov. 22 between 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. EST (0000 and 0400 GMT Nov. 23), NASA said on Saturday. The shuttle had initially been ready to blast off on Nov. 11, but the countdown was called off with just three hours remaining due to an oxygen leak found in a system that supplies oxygen to crew's space suits during launch and landing.

NASA then decided to reschedule the flight, setting Nov. 18 as the earliest launch date. To repair the oxygen leak, technicians had to open the shuttle' s payload bay and remove the faulty flex hose. Their analysis suggested that the leak may have been caused by fatigue from normal usage. During the process, a mobile platform holding the repair crew collided with the shuttle's robot arm, resulting in a "bruise" in its carbon composite structure, NASA said.

As NASA was evaluating the shuttle's technical problems, the maiden launch of Boeing's new-generation Delta IV rocket, scheduled on Saturday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, also bumped into some glitches and was consequently postponed until at least next Tuesday.

To avoid conflict with the launch of Delta IV, NASA had to wait in line behind Boeing, which allows shuttle engineers additional time to complete the ongoing analysis of the cause of the oxygen leak and the scrape on the robot arm.

Shuttle mission managers are not sure how serious the "bruise" is, and it is estimated that if the shuttle has to be rolled back to its hangar to have the robot arm replaced, Endeavor's flight might be delayed into January, 2003.

Endeavor's mission is to deliver a fresh crew and a 390-million- dollar segment to the orbiting International Space Station.

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