NASA Begins Layoffs Leading up to Shuttle Retirement
May 1, 2009 2:36 PM
After years of service, the venerable NASA Space Shuttle is nearing retirement, and with it comes contractor layoffs.
The first round of job cuts hit NASA's contractors
NASA will go ahead and retire the current shuttle fleet next year with nine manned launches left, with job cuts now officially under way for contract workers.
"They are primarily manufacturing team members," according to NASA shuttle Program Manager John Shannon. "We have delivered the last pieces of hardware that those team members produce and we don't keep them on the (payroll). And that is in order to get our budget down to the marks and the assumptions we made early on. So we will start tomorrow and continue with the workforce reduction we had outlined."
The first wave of job cuts includes 160 contract workers, as an expected 900 jobs will be eliminated through September. The first layoff notices are being sent to contractors responsible for developing the shuttle external fuel tank in New Orleans and solid rocket booster developers in Utah.
NASA currently has about 14,000 contractors from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and a number of other companies -- though other job cuts are expected, NASA is relying on the same contractors to help
thousands of jobs will be lost among contractors
across the U.S. and workers located on Florida's "Space Coast." Aside from engineering jobs, the Space Coast economy is expected to take an extremely strong hit, with hotels, restaurants, and other businesses concerned about lost revenue over the next five years.
NASA reportedly was interested in looking into
extending shuttle service in 2015
, but the cost and risks involved were too much. The current administration was concerned about the U.S. space agency's increased reliance of shuttling astronauts and supplies to the ISS by the Russian space agency.
President Obama is interested in adding one additional manned shuttle launch to the ISS, but won't delay the shuttle fleet's retirement.
Also announced in the press conference: NASA will go ahead with the scheduled May 11 launch of shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope. This marks the last time a current shuttle will be sent somewhere else other than the ISS, and will be the last time the aging telescope receives a repair mission.
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