Thursday, April 07, 2011

Shutdown would halt most shuttle work at KSC

Most government and contractor employees at Kennedy Space Center would be forced to stop working if the federal government shuts down Friday night, but any impact to Endeavour's April 29 launch depends on the length of a shutdown.

A relatively small number of personnel deemed "essential" would continue working to keep shuttle hardware safe, including Endeavour on launch pad 39A.

But the majority of about 2,100 NASA civil servants and 10,500 contractors -- the approximate total after previously planned layoffs effective on Friday -- would not be allowed to work.

"There will be personnel needed to keep the shuttle in a stable configuration, but the majority of work on the shuttle will come to a halt," said Allard Beutel, a KSC spokesman.

KSC's ability to support an April 29 launch of Endeavour's final flight wouldn't be affected unless a shutdown dragged on beyond next week.

As of today, launch teams have nine contingency days available to absorb any unexpected delays, a total that includes four weekend days when no work is currently planned.

But plans to announce Tuesday where three shuttle orbiters will be displayed in retirement could be postponed if there is a shutdown. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was expected to make the announcement at a KSC shuttle hangar, with Atlantis as a backdrop.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which does not operate with federal funds, would remain open and bus tours would still be allowed inside the space center gates.

In addition to a skeleton shuttle processing team, "essential" personnel will also include some safety and security staff.

Some contractor employees have been told they won't be paid for the days they are required to stay home unless they use vacation or leave days.

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