As Shuttle Program Continues Wind-Down, Layoffs Skyrocket

Shuttle ProgramWhen Atlantis successfully completed its mission last month, it brought to an end NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program and thousands of jobs.

Many of those positions ended in advance of the program's end this summer, but the bloodletting hasn't ceased just yet.

On Friday, more than 500 workers will be given pink slips at United Space Alliance, according to The Register, a British technology-news site. The employees will join 1,550 former colleagues who were cut when Atlantis touched ground on July 21.

Another 285 workers will be laid off at month's end, the Register notes, reducing USA's staff to 3,100 from its 2003 peak of 10,500.

Though the news is bleak for many alumni of the space program, the Houston Business Journal notes that USA is actually cutting fewer jobs than anticipated because some doomed employees took jobs elsewhere within the company or left before the cuts were made.

Still, the cuts aren't limited to USA. The Houston-based company's parent firms, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are also planning layoffs this month related to the end of the shuttle program, Space News reports.

Combined, the companies will cut an additional 360 jobs -- 100 of those are at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, operated by Lockheed, which has about 400 employees.

Of the remaining 300 Lockheed employees at the plant, 200 have been assigned to work on NASA's next generation Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

"Approximately 100 will depart later this month as a result of the shuttle program end," a Lockheed spokesman told Space News, noting that the workers supported launch and landing operations for the final mission.

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