Thursday, April 30, 2009

NASA to begin layoffs as shuttle retirement nears

The U.S. space agency NASA plans to eliminate 900 manufacturing jobs over the next five months as it prepares to retire its space shuttle fleet in 2010, NASA officials said on Thursday.

Space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour sit on launch pads at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida The first 160 layoff notices go out on Friday, primarily to contractors producing the space shuttle fuel tanks outside New Orleans and the shuttle solid rocket boosters in Utah.

The prime contractors for those components are Lockheed Martin Corp and ATK Thiokol.

"This is the first significant loss of manufacturing capability," shuttle program manager John Shannon told reporters.

The three-ship shuttle fleet is due to be retired after eight more flights to finish building and equipping the International Space Station and a final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Managers on Thursday settled on a May 11 launch date for shuttle Atlantis' 11-day mission to Hubble. Liftoff is set for 2:01 p.m. EDT (1801 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA officials said that they were monitoring the nationwide alert over the new swine flu, or influenza A (H1N1) flu virus, but so far the disease was not affecting any of its operations.

... Hoping to keep the new spaceships, named Orion, on track for a 2015 debut, NASA said earlier this week it had decided to produce only one version of the capsule with room for four astronauts, rather than the six-seater version that had been planned for flights to the station.

via NASA to begin layoffs as shuttle retirement nears.

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