NASA announced Wednesday that it has postponed the shuttle Atlantis' repair and upgrade mission to the Hubble space telescope for four days, until October 14 at the earliest.
The Atlantis is now scheduled for a night lift off 10:10 pm (0210 GMT October 15), from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA blamed the delay on the effects of Hurricane Ike, which struck the Gulf coast of Texas on September 13 and forced the Johnson Space Center in Houston to close.
"While vehicle processing at Kennedy continues on schedule, the lost week of training and mission preparation (at Johnson) due to the impact of the storm led to the decision to slip the dates," NASA said in a statement.
It is the second time the Atlantis, originally scheduled to blast off on October 8, has been postponed.
The change also postponed by four days the launch of the shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station (ISS), now scheduled for November 16.
Hubble is orbiting some 563 kilometers (350 miles) above earth, while the ISS is orbiting 354 kilometers (220 miles) above the earth.
Hubble revolutionized astronomy when it was launched in 1990 as the first orbiting space telescope, but some of its devices have since failed, reducing its capabilities.
NASA plans to install new batteries, a wide-angle camera and other technology to sharpen Hubble's gaze into the universe and extend its working life by up to 10 years, mission officials have said.
In case of a major problem with the Hubble mission the shuttle and its crew of seven cannot head to dock at ISS, so a second shuttle needs to be at the ready for launch in case of emergency.
If everything goes as planned, NASA will have carried out five shuttle launches in 2008, and it has several more scheduled for next year.
The US space agency has plans to replace the aging shuttle fleet with a new space vehicle Orion, set to launch in 2014.
Source: AFP Global Edition