The planned release of an explosive canister from an orbiting NASA/Air Force satellite, set for 8:43 last night, was cancelled because of bad weather.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced early last night that it had been forced to "scrub" the release from the Combined Release and Radiation Effects Satellite, which is studying the Earth's magnetic field, because weather had impaired visibility at critical viewing sites on the East Coast and in the Caribbean.

The canister, designed to produce a cloud of barium vapor that would "paint" the magnetic field lines thousands of miles above the Earth's surface, had been expected to produce a green glow in the southeast sky nearly as large as a full moon.

NASA said the next time the barium cloud might be released was between 9:18 p.m. EST Saturday and 2:05 a.m. Sunday.

The rescheduled release will contain a light metal called lithium, which is expected to cause a large red flare that could will last about 5 minutes.

NASA plans six similar releases as part of a $170 million project to probe the workings of the Earth's magnetic field. The schedule calls for a release approximately every other night until Jan. 25 over South America at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 21,00 miles, well above Earth's atmosphere.

NASA will provided a recorded message of updated release times at (205) 544-5356. -- Curt Suplee