The Soviet Union's space shuttle, whose unmanned maiden flight was postponed indefinitely Saturday because of a fault in a safety platform, could fly again at any time, a senior space official said.

The official, Maj.-Gen. V. Gudilin, told a Moscow TV reporter at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Central Asia neither the shuttle nor its Energia booster rocket had suffered any damage."Nothing serious has happened," Gudilin said, pointing to the gleaming white shuttle and the booster, which were still in position on the launch-pad in bright sunshine. "They could take off at any time."

"But first we need to analyze what went wrong. This is not a failure. It is another experience in our conquest of space," the air force general, who heads the space station's test administration, told the interviewer.

Earlier, Gudilin told the official news agency Tass that the blastoff was automatically aborted with only 51 seconds to go when the platform, designed for the emergency evacuation of crew, failed to swing clear.

"This was detected immediately by the computer, which under launch conditions carries out constant checks on 140 system elements," he said.

The unmanned Buran (Snowstorm) shuttle, mounted piggy-back on the giant booster rocket, had been due to lift off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:23 p.m. MDT.

Tass initially said the launch would be delayed for four hours but later announced an indefinite postponement.

Hundreds of tons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel had to be drained from the booster before any thorough analysis could be made, Gudilin said.

Tass said a new date and time for the launch would be announced later, suggesting that the flight could be delayed for days rather than hours. Western experts estimate it could take three days to restart the countdown.