NASA to Sideline Atlantis Orbiter by 2008

CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA aimsto sideline shuttle Atlantis in 2008, but a senior agency official said Fridaythat no job cuts are expected at Kennedy Space Center as a result.

In an all-hands meeting atKSC, NASA shuttle program manager Wayne Hale told workers that Atlantis wouldserve as a "parts donor" between 2008 and the shuttle fleet'sscheduled retirement in September 2010.

The $2 billion spaceshiphad been slated to undergo a lengthy overhaul beginning in 2008 and would nothave been ready to fly again until the very end of the shuttle program, hesaid.

"We're going to keepit 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 and18 missions to finish assembly of the International Space Station, and likelywill launch another flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Atlantis is scheduled tofly five missions between July and mid-2008. Sister ships Discovery andEndeavour will be used to complete construction of the orbiting outpost afterthat.

The vast majority of the14,500 NASA and contractor employees at KSC work on the shuttle or spacestation programs. Hale said he didn't expect significant job reductions at KSCduring the final years of the shuttle program.

"Most of the workforce, particularly at Kennedy Space Center, is going to stay on the shuttlepayroll until the day the wheels stop on the last orbiter," he said.

"I think there aremore jobs than we have people to fill them right now. That's my observation. Soif you are worried about finding work, I would say you are worried about thewrong thing."

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