1 December 2005
Boeing delivers stage for Pluto flight
By Todd Halverston


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Workers who replaced striking Boeing machinists delivered a rocket stage to NASA on time today, keeping the agency on track for the planned launch next month of a plutonium-powered planetary probe.

With the opening of the launch window looming, the replacement workers transported a Star 48 upper stage motor to a payload processing facility at Kennedy Space Center.

The solid-fuel upper stage is destined to propel the world's first mission to Pluto during a window that will extend from Jan. 11 through Feb. 14.

The mission must be launched during that time to put the spacecraft on course to Pluto. Otherwise, it will be delayed until early 2007.

"We're pleased to deliver the third stage on time," said Boeing spokeswoman Tina Lange.

George Diller, a spokesman for NASA at KSC, said mission preparations are on schedule and that the agency aims to be ready to launch on Jan. 11.

Some 1,500 Boeing machinists went out on strike Nov. 2 after the company and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers failed to reach an agreement on a new three-year contract.

Most of the workers are involved in Boeing's Delta rocket program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.


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