Last Minute Glitch Prevents European Weather Satellite Launch
A Soyuz-2 rocket carrying the MetOp-A weather satellite stands poised to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Oct. 17, 2006. The attempt was scrubbed secons before liftoff.
Credit: Eumetsat.

A last minute glitch just seconds before launch prevented the Tuesday liftoff of Europe's first polar-orbiting weather satellite, yet another delay for the spacecraft.

The countdown clock stopped just before a Russian-built Soyuz-2 rocket carrying Europe's MetOp-A weather satellite launched spaceward from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:28 p.m. EDT (1628 GMT).

"We had to stop the final countdown a few seconds before launch," said Fran?ois Maroqu?ne, director of sales and marketing for Soyuz launch provider Starsem, in a post-scrub statement. "It is impossible to launch today as we only have one launch opportunity per day. A team will analyze the situation and we will know in two or three hours if it is feasible to launch tomorrow."

Officials with Russia's Federal Space Agency told the Associated Press that technical problems have pushed the MetOp launch to Wednesday at 12:28 p.m. EDT (1628 GMT).

Tuesday's launch scrub marked the fourth launch attempt this year for MetOp-A, a hefty 8,818-pound (4,000-kilogram) satellite. A telemetry error prevented a July 19 launch attempt, with fueling issues and incorrect data scrubbing two earlier attempts.

Built by EADS-Astrium, MetOp-A is the second largest Earth observation satellite constructed in Europe and is expected to be the first of a polar-orbiting trio of weather-watching spacecraft for the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Altogether, the MetOp satellites are expected to serve as the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS), European Space Agency officials said.

The MetOp spacecraft carries a suite of sophisticated instruments designed to monitor Earth weather and aid global forecasting efforts during its 15-year design lifetime. The spacecraft also marks the European component of a joint Earth-watching program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S.

Associated Press writer Mike Eckel contributed to this report from Moscow.