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Launch of components for Japan's 1st space station to be delayed+
[February 25, 2006]

Launch of components for Japan's 1st space station to be delayed+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, Feb. 25_(Kyodo) _ The launch of components for Japan's first manned space laboratory, called Kibo, in the International Space Station, or ISS, will be delayed to 2008 or later due to a cut in U.S. space shuttle launches, sources familiar with the issue said Saturday.

The delay will be endorsed at a meeting next Thursday of top space agency officials from nations involved in the ISS project, to be held at the U.S. space agency NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the sources said.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has told Japan that it has cut space shuttle launches to a maximum of 18 from an earlier planned 27 before stopping its launches in 2010, and the sources said the first batch of Kibo's components will be transported by the ninth space shuttle at the earliest.

The first six space shuttle missions will be devoted to transport components for the basic structure of the ISS, including solar cells, followed by two launches for facilities of the European Union and Canada, the sources said.

The United States has said it will shift the focus in space development to probing the moon and the Mars after stopping space shuttle launches in 2010.

NASA has proposed a cut in the scale of the ISS, but said the space facilities of Japan and the European Union will be completed.

The ISS is an international project, scheduled for completion in 2010, with 16 countries participating, including the United States, Japan, Russia and several European nations. It orbits Earth once every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 400 kilometers.

The Japanese government had initially sought to begin the operation of Kibo in fiscal 2006 which starts April 1 this year.

A maximum of four astronauts can perform experimental activities for a long period of time in Kibo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

It has four facilities including two experimental ones, the agency said.

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