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NASA scrubs MRO launch, again

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NASA has delayed the launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) again, this time because of a faulty fuel sensor, a problem that recalled one of the many delays to Shuttle's recent return to flight.

The soon-to-be Martian satellite's launch was halted just minutes before blast off. NASA engineers were filling the hydrogen fuel tank in the Centaur upper stage rocket when one of the sensors showed an incorrect reading of 'dry', when it should have been 'wet'.

NASA says engineers are trying to find out if the problem is in the software, or in the sensor system itself.

Meanwhile, the launch has been re-scheduled for tomorrow, in a two hour launch window between 12:43 and 14:43 (British Summer Time).

The MRO main mission is to learn more about the aqueous history of Mars.

The orbiter will scan the planet over the course of 25 months, capturing data about subsurface water, the minerals in the Martian soil and the distribution of dust and water in the atmosphere. The orbiter will also monitor the daily global weather.

Its powerful cameras will take some of the most detailed pictures of the surface ever recorded. Some scientists speculate that old Mars missions suffering from extended periods of deferred success might be located in its pictures. ®

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