NASA delays Endeavour's final launch

Traffic jam in space pushes back shuttle's liftoff 10 days to April 29

NASA has pushed back the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour by 10 days, because of a scheduling conflict.

The space agency announced this morning that it has scrapped the initial launch date of April 19 because of a conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle that is set to launch on April 27 and arrive at the International Space Station on April 29.

On the initial schedule, Endeavour would have been docked at the space station when the Russian vehicle arrived, and the station is not equipped to handle two spacecrafts at the same time.

The postponement also will give NASA extra time to fix minor damage that passing storms last week did to the protective foam on the shuttle's external fuel tank. The damage was found on Saturday when technicians and engineers inspected the spacecraft.

They did not find any damage to the space shuttle itself.

When Endeavour does lift off, it will head out on a 14-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver supplies and spare parts, including two S-band communication antennas, robotic parts and a meteor debris shield.

This is slated to be Endeavour's final space mission.

Endeavour, which made its first space flight in May 1992, was the fifth and final spacecraft to be added to NASA's shuttle fleet.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, who will command the upcoming flight, is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz. in January.

Space shuttle Discovery made its final trip into space in February.

Spaceshuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch on June 28. That will be the final shuttle launch. After the Atlantis mission, the shuttle fleet will be officially retired.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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