CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA aims to sideline shuttle Atlantis in 2008, but a senior agency official said Friday that no job cuts are expected at Kennedy Space Center as a result.
In an all-hands meeting at KSC, NASA shuttle program manager Wayne Hale told workers that Atlantis would serve as a "parts donor" between 2008 and the shuttle fleet's scheduled retirement in September 2010.
The $2 billion spaceship had been slated to undergo a lengthy overhaul beginning in 2008 and would not have been ready to fly again until the very end of the shuttle program, he said.
"We're going to keep it in as near flight-ready condition as we can without putting it through an (overhaul) so we can use those parts," Hale said.
NASA plans between 16 and 18 missions to finish assembly of the International Space Station, and likely will launch another flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
Atlantis is scheduled to fly five missions between July and mid-2008. Sister ships Discovery and Endeavour will be used to complete construction of the orbiting outpost after that.
The vast majority of the 14,500 NASA and contractor employees at KSC work on the shuttle or space station programs. Hale said he didn't expect significant job reductions at KSC during the final years of the shuttle program.
"Most of the work force, particularly at Kennedy Space Center, is going to stay on the shuttle payroll until the day the wheels stop on the last orbiter," he said.
"I think there are more jobs than we have people to fill them right now. That's my observation. So if you are worried about finding work, I would say you are worried about the wrong thing."
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