CAPE CANAVERAL - Needing more time to study data, NASA is putting off a decision about how best to repair a faulty fuel sensor system in shuttle Atlantis until after Christmas.
The move could once again push back a launch to the International Space Station targeted for no earlier than Jan. 10.
The space agency also halted the assembly of components for the following space shuttle mission,currently set for Feb. 14. Delaying January's flight, however, will affect the schedule for subsequent missions.
NASA managers said they need more time to analyze data from a Tuesday tanking test that pinpointed faulty through-tank connectors as the cause of intermittent low-fuel sensor readings that scrubbed two launch attempts earlier this month.
"It told them all kinds of things," NASA spokesman George Diller said.
NASA managers hope to authorize a repair plan at a Dec. 27 meeting, Diller said.
On Wednesday, shuttle technicians were told to remove foam around the connector.
"Some foam is going to have to come off if they're going to get to those connectors," Dillersaid.
NASA managers put on hold the planned connection of two solid rocket boosters and an external tank for Endeavour's planned mission in February. That will allow more access to the sensor connectors if repairs on that tank are necessary too.
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