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Gusty Winds Delay Shuttle Launch

April 25, 2000

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ NASA hoped to have a second chance at sending space shuttle Atlantis on a mission to repair the international space station, but high wind threatened to delay the launch again.

Launch managers said they would decide this morning, before refueling Atlantis, whether to proceed with an afternoon liftoff or wait for better weather on Wednesday.

NASA has only five minutes each day to send Atlantis and seven astronauts to the station. The brief launch window allows the shuttle to use a minimal amount of fuel to reach it.

Monday’s launch attempt was called off at the nine-minute mark of the countdown after wind gusts exceeded the safety limit. NASA flight rules say crosswind can be no higher than 17 mph, in case the shuttle has to make an emergency return to the launch site.

``We’ll get ’em next time,″ shuttle commander James Halsell Jr. said.

Atlantis is loaded with fresh batteries, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and fans for the 1 1/2-year-old space station.

Since astronauts last visited the station last spring, two of its six main batteries have failed and another two are showing signs of deterioration.

In addition, an antenna is broken, a crane is loose and the space station’s orbit is dropping nearly two miles closer to the Earth each week because of increased solar activity.

NASA wants Atlantis and its crew up there as soon as possible to fix all the problems.

Atlantis was not supposed to fly until the Russians had launched a critical service module with guidance and life-support systems. But with the service module more than two years behind schedule and due to fly no earlier than July, NASA moved up Atlantis’ repair mission.

The Russian delays _ and the Florida weather _ aren’t the only things that have kept Atlantis grounded. Halsell twisted an ankle during training last month, and that forced a one-week postponement.

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On the Net: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/index-m.html

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