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Kennedy launch pad will be busy

Soon after the space shuttle Atlantis touches down at Kennedy Space Center, the massive spaceport has to shift gears.

If Atlantis lands at 10:55 a.m. today as scheduled, NASA will try to launch the shuttle Discovery six days later in what would be the fastest turnaround ever from landing to launch.

The old record was nine days in 1993, when Discovery landed on April 17 and Columbia launched on April 26.

NASA's countdown clock will be blank for only 71 hours before it has to start again at 10 a.m. Monday.

The next four weeks at the Kennedy Space Center will see:

Three shuttles flying at one time or another: Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour.

Two launches: Discovery on Thursday, Endeavour on Aug. 3.

Two landings: Atlantis today and Discovery on July 21.

Four different space crews: Atlantis, Mir, Discovery and Endeavour _ flying in and out of the space center nine times for launches, landings and countdown tests.

And that's not all. A few miles down the coast, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will be busy with unmanned rockets during the two breaks between shuttle launches. A Titan rocket is scheduled to launch on Monday with a classified payload, and an Atlas II-A rocket should be launched on July 27.

Kennedy officials are reveling in the workload.

"We always like to show off what we can do," said Bob Sieck, KSC's director of shuttle management. Workers "are on a high right now. We've got a landing of one and getting ready to pick up count on another. It's a robust work environment."

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