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Air Force delays satellite launch until Sunday

Craft would likely be used during Iraq war

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A circuit problem delayed the launch of the defense communications satellite.

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CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Florida (CNN) -- The U.S. Air Force postponed the launch of a $200 million defense communications satellite Saturday evening after a problem with a circuit that starts the main engine.

The unmanned spacecraft was to be the first launched from Florida since the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry last month with seven astronauts on board.

The launch was rescheduled for 6:43 p.m. EST Sunday.

The circuit problem forced the rocket to miss its launch window, which closed at 8:01 p.m. EST Saturday.

The Defense Satellite Communications System spacecraft will replace an aging satellite used by the U.S. military that flies over the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia and a portion of Eastern Europe.

The satellite's data is heavily protected and encrypted. It has four cameras on board and will likely be used by the U.S. military during any action against Iraq.

It was to be launched into space by a $75 million Boeing Delta IV rocket, which was to eject the satellite 40 minutes after liftoff.

During a successful launch, the top portion of the rocket would then proceed, along with the satellite, into orbit, where it would eventually disintegrate. The rocket's first stage would fall into the Atlantic Ocean.


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