The launch of NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) astronomy spacecraft from a Pegasus-XL launch vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was postponed last night and will be rescheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, March 3.

The launch was aborted 45 seconds before the scheduled liftoff time of 6:56 p.m. PST last night when a pin that secures the rudder on the launch vehicle did not retract, preventing steering of the rudder.

The Pegasus-XL, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, is a three-stage, solid-propellant booster system carried aloft by a Lockheed L-1011 jet aircraft. The system, carrying the 561-pound (254-kg) spacecraft, will be released when the aircraft reaches an altitude of about 40,000 feet (12,200 meters).

An assessment of the launch vehicle will be finished by this afternoon, and the next launch attempt will be established at that time.

For more information about the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, check the web page at the following URL:

For the latest information on the launch, call the status line at the NASA/Kennedy Space Center Resident Office at Vandenberg Air Force Base, (805) 734-2693.

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