The much-delayed launch of NASA's last Great Observatory, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) has been pushed back again, this time until mid-August, to allow time for engineers to change out one of the nine solid-rocket boosters on the hybrid Delta II heavy launch vehicle at complex 17 at Cape Canaveral.

The nozzle of the suspect booster had suffered multiple delaminations, which could have caused a burn-through during launch.

The delay is also to give time for the two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) to meet their Delta II launch windows from the same complex at Cape Canaveral, which close on 13 July. MER 1 is set for a 6 June lift-off and MER 2 for 25 June.

Meanwhile, the seriousness of wiring faults found in the two craft, which had already delayed MER 1, is becoming more apparent with an admission that they could have caused both craft to fail. The MERs were found to be suffering from electrical connector faults that could have caused short circuits that would have made the radar landing control system fail.

Source: Flight International