Cape Canaveral, Florida - NASA has delayed the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its STS-122 mission to the International Space Station until a new target date of 2 Jan 2008.
Shuttle programme managers made the decision to delay the 6 Dec launch following a failure in a fuel sensor system while Atlantis' external fuel tank was being filled.
Earlier, inspection had revealed minor damage to the polyurethane foam insulating the shuttle's external fuel tank, and repairs were made.
But while foam damage has delayed shuttle missions previously, in this case it was one of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of the tank that caused concern, giving a false reading, said NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
NASA's current criteria for launching requires that all four sensors function properly, said a press statement.
The sensor system is one of several that protect the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low.
PIC: Pre-Launch inspection during an earlier Shuttle mission.