CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA postponed the launch on Monday of a $700-million satellite mission designed to test an obscure tenet of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.
The Gravity Probe B, one of the most precise scientific instruments ever built, had been scheduled to be carried aloft by a Boeing Co Delta 2 at 1:01 p.m. EDT from the rocket range at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Mission controllers at Cape Canaveral, Florida, said the launch was delayed because they could not confirm whether software had been loaded onto the Delta to deal with high upper-level winds and could not answer the question in time to meet a narrow launch
"Once you get inside four minutes and you're headed to T-0, if you have a problem you don't have time to discuss it. With a one-second window there was no opportunity to try to resolve this," NASA spokesman George Diller said.
NASA said it would attempt the launch again on Tuesday at 12:57 p.m. EDT.
Einstein developed his mind-bending theories of relativity in the early 20th century, and today those theories are generally accepted, especially as they make their way into such things as medical scanners and the Global Positioning System.
Among the most exotic of Einstein's predictions was that massive bodies -- planets, stars or black holes -- actually twist time and space around as they spin, much like the winds of a tornado.
If Einstein is right, scientists say, the satellite should detect that a small bit of time and space are actually missing from each orbit, something indiscernible to orbiting astronauts but measurable nonetheless.
The satellite, which is to be inserted into a polar orbit, will spend two months getting ready, then 16 months making measurements.