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Delta II, Atlas 5 missions delayed

By Eric Fleischauer 340-2435

Two United Launch Alliance missions planned for this month were postponed, one because of weather and the other because of questions about a rocket engine.

A Boeing-built Delta II had been scheduled to launch a cluster of aurora-studying THEMIS probes Thursday evening. Bad weather in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday, however, caused a delay in fueling the booster.

The new 18-minute launch window begins Friday at 5:05 p.m.

A possibility of thick clouds, rain and gusty winds could cause another delay, but forecasters said there is a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions at launch time.

A planned Feb. 22 launch of a Lockheed Martin Corp.-built Atlas 5 also was postponed.

The rocket system will carry six satellites for the Air Force.

The launch has been delayed until March 8.

The Atlas 5's engine was supplied by the same Russian manufacturer that built the engine used in a recent non-ULA launch. That engine failed in a Jan. 30 launch, destroying a Dutch communications satellite.

Engineers will use the extra two weeks to determine whether similarities between the two rocket engines could affect the Atlas 5 launch.

Parts of the Delta II were built in Decatur, before the local Boeing plant was taken over by ULA in October. ULA is a joint venture between the rocket divisions of Boeing and Lockheed. The Decatur facility will begin building the Atlas 5 later this year.

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