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Shuttle Columbia to Be Ferried to Vandenberg

From a Times Staff Writer

Columbia, flagship of the U.S. space shuttle fleet, will be ferried to Vandenberg Air Force Base later this year to be used in testing new shuttle launch facilities, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Friday.

The 100-ton orbiter, first flown in space nearly five years ago, will be hauled across the country in July by NASA’s modified Boeing 747 transport plane and will remain at the new shuttle launch complex through early November.

During testing in the summer and fall, the orbiter will undergo fueling operations and will be mated with solid rocket boosters and an external fuel tank, the space agency said in a statement.

Polar Orbit Planned

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Before the Jan. 28 explosion of the shuttle Challenger shortly after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA had been scheduled to launch the shuttle Discovery from Vandenberg this year, taking American astronauts into polar orbit for the first time.

But the Challenger tragedy threw the spaceflight schedule into chaos.

NASA’s schedule now calls for a resumption of flights in about a year, but it is uncertain when the first mission will be launched from the West Coast site, where most military spaceflights will begin.

Columbia, which completed its last mission the week before the Challenger accident, is still undergoing its post-flight servicing at Kennedy Space Center.

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