Launch of European weather satellite postponed – problems with control system

The planned launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket was called off less than three minutes before liftoff Wednesday, ITAR-Tass reported, citing an unidentified official at the Russian-leased launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Russian space officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The rocket was to have carried MetOp-A, a European Space Agency weather satellite. MetOp-A is to be the first of three MetOp polar-orbiting satellites that are to provide meteorological data until at least 2020, according to the ESA.

After the problem was detected, space authorities decided to remove the rocket's fuel and take it off the launching pad for tests, ITAR-Tass quoted the official as saying, and it was unclear when the launch could be held.

Russia's space program has suffered several embarrassing failures over the past year, jeopardizing its hopes to earn more revenue from commercial launches of foreign satellites, according to the AP.

Last October, a high-profile European satellite was lost because of a Russian booster failure. The loss of the US$142 million ( Ђ 120 million) CryoSat satellite dealt a major blow to the ESA, which had hoped to conduct a three-year mapping of polar ice caps and provide more reliable data for the study of global warming.

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