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An overheated fuel cell forced NASA to scrub the launch of space shuttle Endeavour just hours before lift-off Thursday, delaying the already belated science mission by about a week.

One of Endeavour's three electricity-generating fuel cells failed early Thursday morning, before NASA had even begun to fuel the shuttle. Technicians were able to restart the power plant, but it overheated again, said NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham.The mission was scrubbed about 3:30 a.m., just after the five astronauts woke up to prepare for the scheduled 11:04 a.m. launch.

Until the fuel-cell trouble, NASA officials were most worried about thunderstorms that threatened to delay liftoff.

Endeavour was supposed to blast off in early August, but it had to undergo unprecedented launch-pad repairs after NASA discovered singe marks on O-ring seals in the solid rocket boosters of two other shuttles. Technicians replaced the thermal insulation surrounding the Endeavour O-rings.