PASADENA, CALIF—NASA's current plans for a space station are being challenged by advocates of a smaller station, more useful to scientists, that could be built more quickly and with fewer shuttle flights.

This opposition has crystallized in recent weeks around two embattled figures: Peter Banks, the former chairman of NASA's task force on scientific uses of the space station, and Oliver P. Harwood, a senior engineer at Rockwell International. Banks, director of Stanford University's Space Telecommunications Laboratory, resigned this spring as head of the 30-member task force after NASA rejected his panel's recommendations for changes in the space station. Harwood, who has been formally reprimanded by top officials of the billion-dollar defense and space contractor for stating his views, testified May 20 before a Senate committee looking into industrial uses of the space station.

Based on NASA briefings that suggested the possibility of obtaining a heavy-lift launch vehicle, Banks proposed...

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