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The BBC's Sue Nelson reports
"Accurate maps are highly sought after "
 real 28k

Tuesday, 1 February, 2000, 09:51 GMT
Computer grounds Endeavour

Nasa Bad weather has also hampered the mission

Nasa has put back the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour by a week because of a technical problem with the onboard computer.

The shuttle's mission to make the most accurate three-dimensional map of the Earth will not now get underway until Wednesday, 9 February, at the earliest.

Launch managers met early on Tuesday and determined they would have to replace the faulty computer that, along with the weather, had forced the postponement of Monday's launch.

Engineers were unable to get the computerised unit, known as a master events controller, to repeat the error that postponed the lift-off, but Nasa spokesman George Diller said mission managers were "convinced there is something wrong with it and it must be replaced."

The master events controller is a critical component.

Rigid structure

Two identical controllers are on board, and both are needed to send signals to ignite the two solid rocket boosters at lift-off and to later separate the boosters and external fuel tank from the shuttle.

The mission is already four months late because of damaged wiring that had to be fixed on Endeavour and the other shuttles.

When it finally does fly, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) will gather data with a 60m (196ft) radar mast - the longest rigid structure ever deployed in space.

The data will be brought back to Earth and take at least a year of computer processing time to go through. But it will be worth it. The information will enable scientists to make topographic maps of Earth that are 30 times as precise as the best global maps in use today.

The information about height variations on land will aid studies of earthquakes, volcanoes and climate change. It will also assist in land and forest management, as well as being of great use to the military.

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See also:
30 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Shuttle take-off postponed
28 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Endeavour set to map Earth
30 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Shuttle flew with fault
29 Jul 99 |  Sci/Tech
Shuttle fuel leak 'too close for comfort'
07 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
Space shuttles may fly till 2040
28 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Discovery returns to Earth

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