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NASA again postpones launch of satellite
Updated: 2004-07-14 08:44

The launch of NASA's Aura satellite was put off again Tuesday because of an unknown problem with the craft's recorder, officials said.

It was the third delay in less than a week for launch of the six-year, $785 million mission, which is to study pollution and the health of Earth's atmosphere.

The launch was pushed back to Wednesday morning to give scientists time to figure out the problem in the solid-state recorder, which will store the scientific information Aura collects and then beam it back to Earth, said Mike Tanner, Aura program executive for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA's Aura satellite aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket on Monday, July 12, 2004, awaits a scheduled launch for Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. NASA officials on Saturday ordered a 48-hour delay in the launch of Aura after engineers discovered that the fairing around the satellite was not aligned properly. [AP]
Aura was designed to determine the composition of Earth's atmosphere in unprecedented detail. Carried by a two-stage Boeing Delta II rocket, it was scheduled to be launched into orbit 438 miles above the Earth shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday.

But 20 minutes before liftoff, a problem was detected that may involve the recorder's random-access memory, which stores data short-term, Tanner said.

"We really believe that we don't have a hardware issue or anything like that," Tanner said. But he said scientists want to be cautious because "we can fix (problems) on the ground but we can't fix them up there."

The launch was initially set for Saturday. It was delayed a day to check whether a transistor problem on an unrelated mission would affect Aura, and then put back two days more to fix a misalignment in a structure that encloses the satellite and second-stage booster.

The 6,542-pound satellite carries four instruments, built by Great Britain, the United States, the Netherlands and Finland. Scientists hope to learn more about the spread of pollutants, the condition of the ozone layer and how Earth's climate is the changing as its atmosphere is altered.

Aura, managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is part of NASA's first series of Earth Observing System satellites. Two other parts of the system are already in orbit: the Terra satellite, which observes land, and Aqua, which studies water.

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