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Astronauts make spacewalk, repairs

Two spacewalking astronauts fixed broken equipment Sunday night on the outside of the international space station, flying united with the shuttle Atlantis.

It was the shuttle crew's second 200-mile-high feat of the day. The first was the impeccable shuttle-station linkup.

Eager to get started on six hours of exterior repairs, Jeffrey Williams and James Voss emerged from the shuttle early.

The men quickly made their way to a loose crane.

The 5-foot construction crane was installed on the space station by spacewalkers last spring. But it was never locked properly into its socket, allowing it to swivel.

Williams and Voss removed the crane from its socket, then pushed it in tight. They tugged at it, and it was no longer wobbling. "All right!" they shouted.

Williams and Voss also had to finish assembling a much larger Russian crane and replace a failed antenna. The initial pieces of this crane, 50 feet when fully extended, were installed last year.

The cranes will be used by future crews to move large items around the outside of the orbiting complex, which NASA hopes will eventually extend the length of a football field and top 460 tons.

For now, the space station jutting out of the shuttle is 77 feet long and 35 tons. Construction is on hold until the Russians launch their long-delayed service module; liftoff is targeted for July.

The hatches will remain sealed between Atlantis and the space station until tonight. Once they're opened, the astronauts will begin replacing dying batteries on the Russian side of the station, which was launched in November 1998.

Four of six batteries must be replaced along with their associated electronics. The crew also must remove three fire extinguishers, four fans and 10 smoke detectors, all beyond their warranties, and put in fresh units.

The earliest anyone will move in is November.

Launch again delayed

CAPE CANAVERAL _ The launch of the first U.S. rocket bearing a Russian engine is off until at least Tuesday because of a valve problem on the pad.

Lockheed Martin Corp. had hoped to have a fifth shot Sunday at launching its new Atlas III rocket with a European communication satellite on board.

But while draining propellant from the rocket after Saturday's failed launch attempt, a gasket in the liquid oxygen check valve wore out and delayed the work.