[FPSPACE] NASA to lay off 900 workers
pjp961 at svol.net
Fri May 1 09:28:51 EDT 2009
NASA to begin layoffs as shuttle retirement nears
Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:18pm EDT
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - 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.
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
"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.
"We're not doing anything special at this point," said NASA's associate
administrator for space operations Bill Gerstenmaier.
NASA plans to replace the shuttles with Apollo-style capsules that in
addition to traveling to the space station will be able to fly astronauts to
the moon's surface.
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.
Money for developing Orion and its launcher, called Ares, is coming from
funds that previously went toward shuttle operations and station
The shuttle is the only vehicle that can service orbiting satellites, such
as the Hubble telescope, as well as handle massive construction efforts,
like assembly of the space station.
NASA has made four previous servicing calls to Hubble to repair equipment
and install new science instruments.
The observatory, which was launched in 1990, has been instrumental in
reshaping scientists' understanding of the universe and expanding public
knowledge of astronomy.
Its observations have been used by astronomers to determine that space is
expanding at an increasingly faster rate, that massive black holes live in
the hearts of most galaxies and that new planets likely are born in flat
disks of gas and dust that circle stars.
The final visit to Hubble features five spacewalks to install a new camera,
resuscitate two failed instruments and other work. NASA hopes the mission
will leave Hubble in good enough shape to continue working until at least
2014 when a more sensitive replacement telescope is put into orbit.
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