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UPDATED: 09:52, April 21, 2005
Launch of first post-Columbia space shuttle flight delayed
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US NASA said Wednesday it needs more time to prepare for the first space shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster and delayed next month's launch by a full week.

The new launch date for Discovery is May 22.

Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons said engineering analysis and paperwork still remain to be done. He stressed that the original launch date was just a target.

NASA had been hoping to send Discovery on a 12-day delivery and repair mission to the international space station on May 15.

But a critical design review of the revamped shuttle was not held until this week, and all the information needs to be sumbitted to the task force overseeing the space agency's return-to-flight effort.

NASA has until early June to launch Discovery -- a window dictated by the position of the international space station and NASA's desire for a daylight takeoff. Otherwise, the flight will have to wait until July.

The space agency has stipulated that the first two post-Columbia launches occur in daylight to ensure good photography of the shuttle and its external fuel tank, which has been modified to prevent big pieces of foam insulation from coming off.

A 1.67-pound chunk of foam broke off Columbia's fuel tank during liftoff in February 2003 and gashed the left wing. The hole caused the spacecraft to shatter during re-entry, killing all seven astronauts.

Source: Agencies

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