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Year-end bug could ground space shuttle

NASA may be forced to change the launch schedule for the space shuttle discovery because on-board computers cannot recognise the year-end.

The space agency is worried that there could be a safety risk if the shuttle is in orbit over new year’s eve because its computers cannot synchronise dates with navigation systems on the ground over the year end.

While the systems on the ground recognise that a new year begins every 365 days, the shuttle computers keep counting, recording New Year’s Day as day 366.

The shuttle is due for launch on 7 December on a 12-day mission to support construction of the International Space Station.

But delays could leave the shuttle in orbit at the turn of the year and NASA officials have confirmed that in this case they would postpone the flight until next year, to avoid the danger period.

Space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said, “The shuttle computers were never envisioned to fly through a year-end changeover.”

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