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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Venus spacecraft 'in good shape'

Venus Express, European Space Agency

The investigative tests on Europe's delayed Venus mission spacecraft are looking promising, say officials.

Wednesday's planned launch was postponed when contamination was found inside the Russian-made rocket.

Inspections show the spacecraft is in good condition and should be cleaned up within days, the European Space Agency (Esa) said.

A new launch date has yet to be set for the mission, but it is unlikely to be before 4 November.

The craft is due to blast off aboard a Russian rocket from Baikonur.

The launch was postponed on Friday when particles of contaminating material were discovered inside the rocket.

The spacecraft had to be removed from the upper stage of the rocket and moved to a different assembly building at the Kazakhstan spaceport.

Engineers began inspecting the damage on Monday and found that bits of the insulating material that protects the spacecraft inside the upper stage of the rocket had worked loose.

'Good news'

Esa spokesman, Franco Bonacina, said the contaminating material appeared to be confined to relatively large pieces that can be easily spotted and removed.

"It doesn't look like an enormous amount of material," he told the BBC News website. "It's relatively good news compared with what we knew on Saturday."

Esa is confident the probe will take off well within the launch window, which closes on 24 November this year.

Greenhouse gases

The spacecraft will carry out the first global investigation of Venus' atmosphere, to shed light on how the planet evolved its harsh climate.

Composed chiefly of carbon dioxide, Venus' atmosphere generates intense greenhouse warming, whereby trapped solar radiation heats the surface of the planet to an average temperature of 467 Celsius.

Experts think Venus could teach us more about how the Earth's climate will respond to the release of greenhouse gases resulting from human activities.

Europe's Venus mission delayed
21 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature
Planet Venus completes transit
08 Jun 04 |  Science/Nature
Venus clouds 'might harbour life'
25 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Reworked images reveal hot Venus
13 Jan 04 |  Science/Nature
Venus has 'heavy metal mountains'
25 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature

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