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House Vote Against Shuttle Engine Plan May Kill Project

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<i> Associated Press</i>

The House voted Tuesday to halt NASA’s efforts to build a more powerful shuttle engine, as lawmakers eager to show concern about the budget deficit put the rocket motor on the verge of extinction.

By a 401-30 margin, lawmakers voted to end work on the advanced solid rocket motor, which is under way in Mississippi. It was the third time this year the House had voted to terminate the program, but this time the Senate is likely to drop its support for the engine.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has planned to use the engine so the shuttle could ferry parts of the space station into orbit for construction of the orbiting laboratory.

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But opponents said work on the rocket motor has proceeded so slowly that it is not expected to be finished until the year 2002--when the space station would almost be built.

“It has become a rocket without a mission,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.).

Opponents also argued that at $4 billion, the engine has become a costly project that does little but create local jobs. NASA’s plant is under construction in Yellow Creek, Miss., in the district of former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.). About $1 billion has been spent on it so far.

Aware that they were outnumbered, supporters of the project put up little resistance.

“We have a $1-billion building in Mississippi that certainly needs to be used, and I hope NASA can find a use for this building,” said Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.).

Because of Senate support for the engine, the project was to receive $157.5 million in fiscal 1994, which started on Oct. 1. But after the House voted recently for the second time this year to kill the program, negotiators from the two chambers agreed to eliminate it.

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