BONN, Germany (AP) _ In a peculiar convergence of arms control and science, a U.S. arms inspection tour delayed Wednesday's launch of the first Western space project using a converted Russian nuclear missile.

An unmanned German space lab was to have been launched on a Russian SS-18 missile from a nuclear submarine in the Bering Sea early Wednesday, but the launch was delayed at least 24 hours, German scientists said.

U.S. inspectors coincidentally were conducting a Start II weapons verification in Murmansk harbor on Tuesday, so the submarine had to stay in port, said Franz-Peter Spaunhorst of the German Space Agency.

The missile's payload is a Russian space capsule containing a $700,000 German mini-laboratory to be released in space and then float to earth, landing on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, said Christoph Egbers, the project manager at Bremen University.

The lab contains a sphere designed to simulate the earth or another planet. A silicon fluid represents the mantle, and an outer plexiglass sac the core.

Using weightlessness as a control factor, the scientists hope to learn more about convection currents in the earth's mantle.

Such information could eventually help predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Egbers said, adding that Bremen scientists were working with Americans conducting a similar experiment aboard Space Lab later this year.

The launch marks the first time Western scientists have used converted Russian nuclear missiles for scientific experiments, Egbers said.

``This was only possible due to disarmament,'' he said.