Space shuttle Discovery lifts off, reaches orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - The U.S. space shuttle Discovery blasted off from its launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday in NASA's first shuttle mission since Columbia was destroyed in 2003.

The launch was postponed from July 13 because of a glitch in a fuel sensor.

The shuttle, carrying seven crew members, soared into slightly hazy skies on a plume of smoke and flames, and the roar of its solid booster rockets rattled windows and shook the ground across the Cape.

The booster rockets separated without problem just after 2 minutes into flight, said NASA launch commentator James Hartsfield. Around nine minutes after launch, the shuttle reached its planned preliminary orbit and cut off its three main engines.

The shuttle's mission is to test new safety and repair measures introduced after Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, after falling foam knocked a hole in its wing on liftoff 16 days earlier. Discovery will also deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

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