NASA to Wait on Fuel Tank Redesign

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NASA will wait until 2008 before redesigning the space shuttle's external tank -- the source of the problem that led to the Columbia disaster.

A NASA spokesman said the current design has proven to be more robust than initially thought.

Instead of implementing an interim design while waiting for the permanent redesign to roll out, NASA will focus its resources on the final configuration.

Three flights since Columbia have launched without having foam fall off the tank early enough in the journey to damage the shuttle. NASA says engineers have refined the process of applying foam to the tank in an attempt to prevent the situation that doomed Columbia.

The permanent redesign of the tank will replace the current aluminum brackets with titanium ones.

NASA aims to have the redesign ready in early 2008. Its timeframe is linked to the launch of the next Hubble flight, since that spacecraft will go a farther distance than the space station.