Beleaguered mapping mission postponed again

Computer malfunctions and inclement weather Tuesday delayed the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission that was to take pictures of the Earth's surface.

NASA postponed the mission by more than a week to replace Space Shuttle Endeavour's master events controller. The controller signals the firing of the rocket boosters at takeoff and separation. The mission is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9.

This is the third time the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) has been postponed. Endeavour, outfitted with radar technology to map 80 percent of the Earth's surface for the National Imaging and Mapping Agency (see Jan. 24 FCW), was originally scheduled for launch in September. Problems with Space Shuttle Discovery's wiring led to the rewiring of all space shuttle vehicles.

Endeavour was rescheduled for Monday, but rain showers and the controller malfunction during the 10-minute countdown postponed the launch till Tuesday afternoon. Because it was unclear why the microwave-size unit sent erroneous information to the engine units, NASA officials decided during a 4 a.m. Tuesday meeting to postpone the launch, a NASA spokesman said.

Up to date SRTM information is available at www.jpl.nasa.gov/srtm.

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