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NASA again postpones space shuttle's takeoff

NASA has pushed back the launch date for a third time for the space shuttle Discovery for a construction mission to the International Space Station.

Initially slated for launch this week, the launch is now scheduled for February 27.

NASA wanted more time to review analysis and test results of potentially troublesome valves needed to keep the shuttle's fuel tank properly pressurized during the 8.5-minute ride into space.

"More time was needed to complete analysis and testing," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle will be carry the last set of American solar wing panels to bring the space station up to full power.

The shuttle crew includes Japan's Koichi Wakata, who will replace space station engineer Sandra Magnus. Wakata will be the first astronaut from Japan, one of 16 countries involved in the project, to become a member of the live-aboard station crew.

NASA is preparing to expand the station's full-time crew from three to six astronauts as it completes construction of the US$100 billion outpost. Eight more flights to the station remain before the space shuttles are retired in 2010.

NASA also plans a final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope in May.


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