Feeds

Shuttle flights are gone 'til November

At the earliest

The next step in data security

No new Shuttle missions will blast off until November at the earliest, NASA has said, as it scrubbed a flight scheduled to depart in late September this year.

The space agency is unwilling to risk new flights until it has nailed down the cause of the falling debris during the launch of the shuttle Discovery, the BBC reports.

NASA spent more than two-and-a-half years trying to solve the problem of foam falling from external fuel tanks, after the disastrous loss of Columbia in March 2003. Since then, the agency has spent more than a billion dollars on various safety improvements, and had thought that it had solved the problem of falling debris.

The chunk of foam that fell from Discovery was not much smaller than the piece that fatally wounded Columbia. Fortunately, it did not hit the shuttle as it fell.

NASA says it cannot see an immediate or obvious solution to the problem. "It's an extremely difficult engineering problem to solve," NASA investigator Bill Gerstenmaier said, in a media teleconference.

"Frankly, even the next time we fly the tank, I would expect to see a little bit of foam loss somewhere," he added.

The next shuttle scheduled to launch was Atlantis, which had been pencilled in for a 22 September lift-off. Its mission would have been similar to Discovery's: to test new in-orbit inspection and repair systems, and to ferry equipment to the International Space Station.

Get the latest from NASA about the Return to Flight project here. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.