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NASA Eyes Wednesday Launch for Atlantis

The U.S. space agency, NASA, says it intends to launch the shuttle Atlantis as early as Wednesday, after Tropical Storm Ernesto forced them to delay an earlier launch.

NASA said Thursday the launch could come September 6, or as late as September 8.

NASA officials had delayed the Atlantis takeoff after Ernesto was predicted to pass near the launch site. But the storm moved farther west than anticipated, allowing officials to consider new launch dates.

If Atlantis is unable to launch next week, its mission to the International Space Station would likely be postponed until October.

Meanwhile, Russia announced it will delay the September 14 launch of a Soyuz spacecraft until September 18. Russian officials ordered the delay to avoid conflict with the American craft.

NASA's plans call for an 11-day shuttle mission to the space station, where astronauts will conduct three spacewalks to attach solar panels that will eventually generate one quarter of the station's energy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.