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Space Shuttle Launch Delayed Until January

The U.S. space agency NASA has assigned a team of engineers to find out what caused fuel sensors to fail, leading to the postponement of today's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

NASA officials said they would not attempt another launch before January 2. In the meantime, they will try to find out why sensors in the shuttle's liquid fuel tank failed as the tank was being filled.

A previous launch attempt Thursday was also canceled because of malfunctioning fuel sensors. The sensor system is designed to shut down the engines if the shuttle unexpectedly runs short on fuel.

Atlantis was slated for an 11-day mission to deliver a European-made space laboratory to the International Space Station.

Named Columbus, the laboratory will join U.S. and Russian-made components on the space station.

The 17-nation European Space Agency also is developing a system to launch automated missions that will deliver supplies to the space station next year.

A Japanese lab, the Kibo, is scheduled for delivery to the space station early next year.

NASA is in a hurry to complete construction of the International Space Station before the shuttle program ends in 2010. The program has been delayed by accidents that destroyed two shuttles, in 1986 and in 2003, and numerous technical problems.