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NASA delays shuttle launch till Saturday
Updated: 2005-07-14 07:14

But the glare of publicity around Discovery's launch is brighter than most because it is the first mission since its sister ship, Columbia, broke apart over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members.

The malfunctioning sensor is one of four that detects fuel levels and would cut off the shuttle's three main engines if at least two showed that fuel was running low. A premature cutoff might damage the engines, force the shuttle to make an emergency landing or leave it short of its desired altitude.


NASA has until July 31 to launch Discovery. After that it will have to delay until Sept. 9, when the International Space Station again comes into the right position for a shuttle rendezvous after a daylight liftoff.

NASA had problems with fuel level sensors during a test of the external fuel tank in April, but engineers said they did not know if Wednesday's malfunction was related.

The problem was the third technical issue to crop up since the countdown to Discovery's launch began on Sunday.

A faulty heater delayed the fueling of the external tank with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen by more than an hour on Wednesday, and on Tuesday, a falling window cover damaged two heat-resistant tiles near the shuttle's tail -- an eerie reminder of the problem that doomed Columbia.
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