THE AEROSPACE Safety Advisory Panel has warned NASA that its programme to cut Space Shuttle operations costs is increasing the risk of a serious accident (Flight International, 28 February-5 March).

The prime concern is the reduction of safety inspections and the plan to hand over Shuttle operations to the Rockwell-Lockheed Martin United Space Alliance team, a move which is leaving the workforce at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, including many NASA workers who will lose their jobs, "demoralised", says the Panel.

The United Space Alliance is to take over control of Shuttle operations on 1 October, as part of a six-year contract from NASA. The Panel has urged NASA to slow down and extend this transition.

"Without this hiatus, the safety risk is likely [to be] unacceptable," the Panel says.

The delayed flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis/STS79 has been tentatively rescheduled for 12 September. The Atlantis will dock with the Russian Mir 1 space station on the fourth Shuttle Mir Mission flight, delivering a new NASA astronaut, John Blaha, for a long-duration flight on the Station, replacing Shannon Lucid.

Source: Flight International