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NASA's Ares I-X test flight delayed by weather

Bad weather and an errant freighter that strayed into the off-shore danger zone forced NASA to delay Tuesday's planned launch of the Ares I-X rocket on a $445 million test flight.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Launch of NASA's Ares I-X rocket on a planned $445 million test flight was delayed 24 hours Tuesday because of bad weather and an errant freighter that briefly strayed into the off-shore danger area.

"For everyone, great job today. You gave it a great shot," Launch Director Ed Mango told the team. "We had some opportunities and just couldn't get there, weather didn't cooperate. But good work today."

The Ares I-X rocket atop pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center during launch preparations. Bill Ingalls/NASA

Launch was rescheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday. Forecasters are predicting a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather during a four-hour launch window, with lighter winds and less cloud cover. It is not yet clear whether Thursday is an option if additional problems force another delay Wednesday.

NASA began Tuesday's launch campaign at 1 a.m. EDT with the start of a seven-hour countdown. With forecasters concerned about high clouds, showers, and friction-induced static charge buildups, NASA passed up the 8 a.m. opening of the window and the countdown remained in an extended hold at the T-minus four-minute mark in hopes conditions would improve.

In a bit of a surprise given a 60 percent "no-go" forecast, conditions improved and NASA was preparing to come out of the hold and proceed to launch when a freighter strayed into the launch danger zone.

The ship was contacted and immediately began moving out of the area. NASA reset launch for 10:49 a.m., but the delay caused by the freighter held things up long enough for clouds to move in. Two minutes and 37 seconds before liftoff, weather officer Kathy Winters ordered a hold.

The countdown was recycled back to T-minus four minutes and holding in hopes conditions would improve.

Throughout the morning, clouds rolled over the Kennedy Space Center from the west and while occasional breaks were seen on radar, the timing didn't work out for NASA. Around 11:20 a.m., launch managers called off the attempt.

"It looks like we're not going to get there with weather on these opportunities and per our discussions, I guess we're looking for your recommendations and what you would like us to implement from a launch perspective," Test Director Jeff Spaulding said to Mango.

"Your team has done outstanding getting the vehicle ready," Mango said. "Weather (officer) has been outstanding in trying to help us. We're not going to be go today. So we can set up for a scrub."

There are no technical issues with the Ares I-X rocket. But in attempting to launch Tuesday, engineers pulled a sock-like cover from an air data probe at the very tip of the rocket that is designed to measure the atmospheric conditions ahead of the launcher.

Because of the booster's height, and the need to use a shuttle launch pad with a gantry that is much shorter than the rocket, the cover had to be removed by technicians, atop the pad's service gantry, manually pulling a long lanyard. The protective cover hung up at the base of the probe, but the technicians were able to pull it free after a few minutes of energetic tugging.

The cover cannot be re-installed. If rain water gets into the probe between now and launch, it could prevent accurate readings. NASA managers said earlier that was an acceptable condition and that the data, while desirable, was not required for launch.

Editor's note: A 4,000-word mission preview is available on the CBS News Space Place Breaking News page.