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Space shuttle program seeks computer parts on eBay

The company that oversees the day-to-day operations of the US space shuttle uses auctions on eBay as a guide to sourcing computer parts that are no longer manufactured.

However, United Space Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, does not actually bid in auctions and the components that it buys are never used on the shuttle itself, a company representative said.

The United Space Alliance has been inundated with parts offers from companies looking to get rid old computer components since a New York Times story ran saying that the company regularly searches eBay and Yahoo auctions looking for parts.

"Think of it more as a chain preservation," United Space Alliance said. Company engineers must consider the long-term needs of the shuttle program, which began in the late 1970s and had its first launch in 1981.

The need for parts will probably continue for some time. Each of the shuttle's airframes was designed for 100 missions. Since most of the current crop of shuttles has only gone into space about 25 times, NASA anticipates that the fleet will keep flying until 2020.

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