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Texan guilty in selling defective shuttle part

HOUSTON -- Federal prosecutors say a Houston-area machine shop owner has pleaded guilty to selling NASA a defective space shuttle part that if used could have resulted in the loss of the spacecraft.

Richard J. Harmon, 60, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud Monday during a Houston court hearing. Prosecutors say Harmon, who had a shop in nearby Alvin, turned in a defective fastener he had been hired to build by a NASA contractor. The part was to be used to secure cargo in the payload bay of space shuttle Endeavour during a March 2008 flight to the international space station. But a NASA engineer discovered the defect before the flight.

Harmon faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 29.

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