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Atlantis launch knocked back four days

Hurricane Ike provokes Hubble mission delay

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The provisional launch date of space shuttle Atlantis on its STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope has been postponed from 10 to 14 October due to the knock-on effects of Hurricane Ike.

Ike forced the closure of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, resulting in a "lost week of training and mission preparation". NASA will confirm a concrete launch date for Atlantis on 3 October.

The delay has also affected the intended launch of Endeavour, due to carry the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station on 12 November on mission STS-126. This is now slated for a 16 November blast-off.

STS-125 - the last mission to Hubble - extends to 11 days, during which the Atlantis crew (Commander Scott Altman, Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel, Michael Good, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur) will carry out five spacewalks.

Their list of chores includes maintenance on the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, as well as equipping Hubble with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph - designed to "observe the light put out by extremely faint, far-away quasars and see how that light changes as it passes through the intervening gas between distant galaxies" - plus the new Wide Field Camera 3, which at ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths "represents a dramatic improvement in capability over all previous Hubble cameras". ®

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