July 7, 2010

NASA Contractor Cutting Jobs After Shuttle Retirement

NASA contractor, United Space Alliance, plans to cut the jobs of over 1,000 leading scientists and technicians once NASA's shuttle program is put to an end.

United Space Alliance, which manages the shuttle program and handles NASA's International Space Station, said that most of the jobs bring cut are in Florida and Texas.

There are two shuttle flights remaining that are scheduled to be completed by 2011.

The job cuts represent about 15% of the workforce at NASA.

"People being laid off now is just the beginning. Many more thousands will be laid of as the shuttle program is wound down," Keith Cowing, the editor of space specialist website NASA Watch, told BBC News.

United Space Alliance is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

NASA's shuttle program has had a recent run of successes, launching eight flights in 14 months, with the staff setting records for the rapid processing of shuttles and the lowest numbers of in-flight anomalies.

John Shannon, the manager of the space shuttle program, told his employees last month:  "I am extremely proud of how all of you are maintaining your focus and completing the incredible legacy of the program."

However, Cowling said that with so many scientists, technicians and aerospace experts looking for work, the prospect of them getting work at private companies that launch satellites were not good.

"The whole idea behind private sector companies is that they can do it cheaper and with a lot more automation than the space shuttle program used," he said.

"So sort of by definition they can do it cheaper and make a profit by using less people,"

He said that it is very unlikely that the space experts would be allowed to work for foreign companies because they have worked with top secret technology.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin have not announced any plans to transfer them to other departments within their aerospace businesses.

NASA hopes to make the last shuttle flight next February, although several factors could delay that plan.


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