The launch of NASA's third Great Observatory spacecraft, the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), aboard the Space Shuttle STS93/Columbia, scheduled for August 1998, will be postponed, possibly by "several months", because main contractor TRW has experienced delays in "assembly and testing". International Space Station Shuttle flights scheduled later in 1998 might further delay the AXAF launch to 1999. The major problem encountered by TRW is "difficulty in configuring and programming its Integrated Spacecraft Automated Test System to test the observatory before it is delivered to NASA". The AXAF will probe the Universe for "dark matter", hot-gas clouds in galaxies, black holes and exploding stars.

Source: Flight International