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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 22:18 GMT
Nasa delays space shuttle launch
Space shuttle Atlantis
The rust-coloured tank was dented by the fierce hailstorm
Nasa has said it will postpone next month's launch of US space shuttle Atlantis after damage to the shuttle's fuel tank.

A hailstorm late on Monday pummelled the fuel tank and a wing with shards of ice, leaving hundreds of dents.

The shuttle had been positioned on a launch pad in preparation for the flight, scheduled for 15 March.

The shuttle will now be shifted to a hangar at the Kennedy Space Centre so that the damage can be repaired.

"This constitutes the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," said Wayne Hale, manager of the Space Shuttle Program.

He said several areas needed repair which were not accessible at the launch pad.

The space shuttle will move back to the hanger over the weekend or early next week, Nasa said.

Nasa said that the launch would be delayed by at least a month and the earliest opportunity to launch the shuttle would be in late April.


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