The Space Shuttle mission, the STS 83/Columbia, which had to be aborted because of a problem with a fuel cell, could be re-launched as early as July using the same seven crew, says NASA.

The $500 million, 16-day mission ended when the Shuttle touched down at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 9 April after only four days. Apart from the 1986 Challenger disaster, the failure is the most serious so far in the 78 operational orbital Shuttle missions.

The Columbia's Microgravity Science Laboratory mission was curtailed for safety reasons when one of the three orbiter systems electricity-generating fuel cells had to be shut down after failing shortly after reaching orbit. Only 20% of experiment objectives were completed. Voltage readings from the fuel cell had been causing some concern 12h before the launch, and NASA now admits that these should have been investigated. The second of four Shuttle test flights in 1981 had to be shortened because of a similar malfunction.

Ironically, the Columbia was equipped with the Extended Duration Orbiter fuel-cell package to support the payload mission.

Source: Flight International