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Shuttle Problem Could Delay Launch Rudder & Speed Brake Exhibited High Pressure Readings

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Updated 7:55 a.m. EDT April 7, 2000 -- A rudder problem could delay this month's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

The shuttle is supposed to lift off April 24 with supplies and replacement parts for the international space station.

But NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham says a hydraulic-driven unit that controls the rudder and speed brake exhibited higher than normal pressure readings during testing last week. The rudder and speed brake are crucial for landing.

Engineers have not yet determined whether the so-called power drive unit will need to be replaced. But any work that's needed can hopefully be done at the launch pad.

If not, Atlantis would have to be moved back to its hangar. That would delay liftoff by several weeks.


April 24

4:15 p.m. EDT ISS Docking:

April 26

9:15 a.m. ISS Undocking:

May 2

4:07 a.m. Shuttle Landing

May 4

11:23 a.m. The seven astronauts assigned to the mission are at the Kennedy Space Center this week, practicing their countdown.

The mission already is one week late because commander James Halsell Jr. twisted his left ankle climbing out of a shuttle simulator in mid-March. He couldn't fly the shuttle training aircraft until Wednesday night.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 07, 2000

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