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Rocket glitch delays NASA's sky-mapper launch

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NASA has delayed the launch of its new sky-mapping spacecraft because of a last-minute technical issue with a rocket booster engine.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, will stay perched atop its Delta II rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for at least an extra 24 hours.

Liftoff was set for Friday morning EST, but during final system checks of the Delta II rocket on Wednesday, "an anomaly in the motion of a booster steering engine was detected," according to NASA.

The space agency has delayed the mission 24 hours to allow the WISE team to troubleshot the problem. The earliest launch could be December 12, between 9:09 and 9:23 a.m. EST.

Although prelaunch preparations will continue, NASA forecasts only 20 per cent change of favorable launch conditions during the Friday launch window. Thick clouds and rain are expected.

Once in orbit, the spacecraft is designed to scan the sky one-and-a-half times in nine months with infrared sensors. The mission hopes to find hidden cosmic objects, including dark asteroids, cooler stars, and new galaxies. ®

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