Pellet gun

A spokeswoman for Nowak's lawyer said the former astronaut did not have any immediate comment and the mother of three did not respond to a call to her home.

Nowak is accused of confronting Colleen Shipman, the woman who had become the girlfriend of Bill Oefelein, a navy commander, after a 1,448km drive while wearing an astronaut nappy so that she would not have to stop.

Police found a pellet gun, a steel mallet and a knife in her car and Novak is said to have allegedly pepper-sprayed Shipman.

Oefelein previously had a romantic relationship with Nowak and remains on active duty while working for Nasa.

She was released on bail wearing a monitoring device on her ankle.

Chief astronaut Steve Lindsey told Nowak late last month she would be fired from the astronaut corps.

Administrative factors

After her arrest, Nasa placed Nowak on a 30-day leave, which was to end Thursday.

Nasa said it lacked an administrative system to handle the allegations because Nowak is a naval officer on assignment to Nasa, rather than a Nasa civil servant.

James Hartsfield, a Nasa spokesman, said if Nowak were a civil servant, Nasa would have the choice of placing her on administrative leave, leave without pay or indefinite suspension until the charges are resolved,

Nowak, a captain in the navy, will now return to the military.

Lydia Robertson, a navy commander, said Novak would be assigned to the staff at the chief of naval air training in Corpus Christi, Texas, starting in two weeks.

Robertson said she did not know what job Nowak would be doing.

Nowak received a commission from the US naval academy in 1985 and joined the astronaut corps in 1996.

She flew on her first and only space shuttle mission last July during Discovery's 13-day trip to the international space station.