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NASA Delays Launch of Atlantis Until Sunday

Officials with the U.S. space agency have decided to put off the launch of the shuttle Atlantis once again, this time until at least Sunday.

NASA authorities met late into the night Friday discussing how to get around the problem of faulty fuel sensors, discovered during the countdown to the first attempt to launch on Thursday.

Officials are anxious to launch the shuttle within the next few days, before the sun moves into a position that would make it difficult for the shuttle to dock at the International Space Station. At that point, the next opportunity for a launch is in January.

Atlantis is 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 the total destruction of two shuttles, in 1986 and in 2003, and numerous technical problems.

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