NASA says the Space Shuttle will not return to flight in 2003. The first launch, STS 114 Atlantis, will take place no earlier than March 2004, says Michael Kostelnik, chief of Shuttle and International Space Station programmes.

Full inspections of the Space Shuttle orbiter by spacewalking astronauts may become a routine part of every mission in the aftermath of the 1 February loss of Columbia during re-entry.

Meanwhile, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board has confirmed the loss of a T-seal, which was struck by foam from the external tank during lift-off and which floated away from the orbiter in space, is the likely cause of the chain of events that resulted in the loss of the craft (Flight International, 22- 28 April).

Source: Flight International