Power Outage Delays Launch of NASA's Pluto Probe
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, tucked snugly atop its Atlas 5 rocket, was unable to launch on Jan. 17, 2006 due to high winds at its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site.
Credit: NASA TV.

This story was updated at 6:17 p.m. EST.

The planned launch of NASA's first probe bound for Pluto has been delayed another day due to an early morning power outage at the spacecraft's Maryland-based mission control center Wednesday.

Sitting atop a Lockheed Martin-built Atlas 5 rocket, the New Horizons spacecraft is now set to Jan. 19 at 1:08 p.m. EST (1808 GMT) based on an afternoon decision by mission managers, NASA officials said. The spacecraft was previously slated to lift off today at 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT) after high winds foiled a Tuesday launch attempt.

"We've been working on this for 17 years so I don't think a couple of days are going to hurt us," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, told SPACE.com.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft carries seven primary instruments designed to study Pluto, its moon system and other Kuiper Belt objects with unprecedented detail.

Severe storms knocked out power to the New Horizons mission control center at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, NASA officials said in a statement. While the center was on backup power, New Horizons mission managers want to ensure the site has sufficient backups before pressing forward with critical events like launch and early flight operations, they added.

"It's like a double whammy," APL spokesperson Helen Worth said of the launch delay in a telephone interview. "All we can do is try again tomorrow. People here are disappointed and this was totally out of left field."

APL officials said the outage occured at about 6:00 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) and anticipate power to be restored at their facilities by 5:00 p.m. EST (2200 GMT).

The outage also affected APL mission operations for NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft currently headed toward the planet Mercury, Worth added.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has a wide launch window that extends until Feb. 14. Mission managers would like to launch the spacecraft by Feb. 2, which would allow New Horizons to take advantage of a gravity boost during Jupiter flyby slated for early next year. If the probe launches by Jan. 28, it could reach Pluto by 2015.