necro81 writes: A $1.5 billion gamma ray experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, that was to have launched aboard the space shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station in July, has undergone a last minute design change that will change the launch date, pushing back the end of the shuttle program by at least several months. The change replaces the original liquid helium-cooled superconducting magnet with a more conventional one, which will reduce the risks involved (superconducting magnets can be problematic — just ask CERN) and will greatly extend the useful life of the spectrometer (the liquid helium coolant would have boiled away within a few years of launch). Although the conventional electromagnet is only 1/5th as strong, its increased lifespan should allow for substantially more science to be conducted, especially considering the ISS's extended mission life. As the change is still underway, the impact to the final shuttle schedule is not fully known.
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