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Vandenberg Shuttle Site on Hold Till '92, AF Confirms

July 31, 1986|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The shuttle launch complex at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base will be put on caretaker status until 1992, Air Force Secretary Edward C. Aldridge Jr. confirmed today, for a saving of $1 billion that would require a 50% reduction in the spaceport's planned work force.

He said the nation's space program "will be best served" if the remaining three shuttles are launched from Kennedy Space Center between February, 1988, and early 1992.

Although plans have not been finalized, Aldridge said the Air Force thought it could save $1 billion over the next five years by delaying activation of Vandenberg's new shuttle spaceport after the completion of all construction work.

That saving would require a roughly 50% reduction in the Vandenberg work force of 2,100 that had been planned during the period to support four shuttle launches a year, he said.

At the same time, Aldridge said he has held discussions with France about the possibility of launching unclassified military satellites aboard its Ariane rocket because of the setback to the U.S. space program caused by the loss of the Challenger shuttle and two booster rockets--the Titan 34D and Delta.

He also said the Air Force is embarking on a five-year, $2.6-billion program shifting the Pentagon's reliance on the space shuttle to unmanned rockets for boosting satellites into space.

Aldridge told a news conference the $3-billion Vandenberg shuttle launch facility will be completed as scheduled during the next year and then put on caretaker status until early 1992.

The shuttle Columbia will be sent to Vandenberg in October for testing and will remain there until May, as previously scheduled, Aldridge said. But it will not take off from Vandenberg.

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