VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE — Activity at the space shuttle's $3.3-billion West Coast military launch site will be cut drastically to save money, bringing an as-yet-unannounced number of civilian layoffs, the Air Force said today.
The recently completed spaceport will be put on "minimum caretaker status" in October, said Capt. John Sullivan, spokesman for the Air Force Space Missile Test Organization.
That is a step down from the current "operational caretaker status," a reduction from normal readiness ordered after the shuttle Challenger exploded on takeoff from Cape Canaveral last Jan. 28, killing all seven aboard.
Military shuttle missions were to have been launched from Vandenberg, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
"The next step down would be mothballing--it would be completely shut down," Sullivan said. Mothballing would mean cutting the civilian work force from 850 to 150, he said.