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More Trouble For New Rocket

Boeing has delayed the launch of its new Delta 3 rocket until next week, thwarted by technical trouble and weather problems. The launch would be the first since the rocket blew up on its maiden flight in August.

The rocket holds a communication satellite that will serve Asia and the Pacific region.

The countdown was halted Tuesday at the 25-second mark when a valve became stuck and an unrelated red alarm went off. Alarms also had gone off minutes earlier. Launch controllers solved all those problems, but then a radar-tracking station went down and the team ran out of time.

Monday's try was halted by the wind.

Boeing must wait until next week to try again because other rockets need to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station.

A success in the $230-million satellite delivery mission will boost Boeing's effort to capture a larger portion of the lucrative satellite launch market, now dominated by the French-led European Ariane launcher.

"We all believe that we have done everything possible to assure what happened in August will not occur again," said Rich Murphy, Boeing's mission director. "We have checked, and double-checked, and triple-checked everything we can."

The first flight of the Delta 3, an upgraded version of the company's Delta 2 rocket, ended in disaster on Aug. 28, 1998, when the launcher exploded just over a minute into flight.

Engineers blamed the problem on a control system that overreacted to normal vibrations during the liftoff. A change in the system's operating rules should solve the problem, Boeing officials said.

Another launch mishap would have a severe impact on the Delta program, Boeing officials admit. The company has 17 launch contracts for the Delta 3 rocket.

The launch will send into orbit the Orion 3 telecommunications satellite, built by Hughes Space and Communications Co for Loral Space and Communications Ltd.

Orion 3 will provide television, Internet and other communications links for the Asia-Pacific region, covering an area from India to Hawaii.

Another big rocket was scheduled to return to flight this week. The U.S. Air Force plans to launch a Titan 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral Friday, the first mission for that booster since a $1 billion in-flight explosion last August.

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