Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Space shuttle workers receive layoff notices

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Nearly 1,400 employees were sent layoff notices this week from NASA's space shuttle contractor, United Space Alliance.

Of those 1,400 employees, 902 workers in Florida will be laid off, according to United Space Alliance spokeswoman Kari Fluegel. This layoff is related to the shutdown of the space shuttle program, Fluegel said.

"Previously we let everyone know that this was coming today...this week is when we are notifying specific employees," Fluegel said. The job cuts won't take effect until October 1, but will also involve 478 workers in Texas and 14 in Alabama."Our work scope and our work content is slowly ramping down as we finish up tasks," Fluegel said.

"We have to scale down," Fluegel said. Because of high operating costs, the current space shuttles are being phased out and replaced by a new spacecraft that will travel beyond the International Space Station's orbit.

To finish off, a $100 billion project of two remaining flights are scheduled for the U.S. space agency, but Congress is considering new plans for NASA beginning October 1, which would add a third flight to the station next summer. If the third flight is scheduled, United Space Alliance won't come up short for employees after the October 1 cutback. "Planning for that additional flight is included with this process," Fluegel said.

More layoffs might be in United Space Alliance's future."We expect a smaller, but another lay off action" sometime next year, Fluegel said. After that, it depends on how many missions the station has next year, she added.

The current layoffs follow two previous cutbacks, one in October 2009 and the other in June 2010, totaling 743 shuttle workers. That makes the upcoming layoffs the largest cutback for United Space Alliance, totaling 1394.

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