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NASA Begins Layoffs Tied To Shuttle Fleet Retirement

The next-generation Orion shuttle is slated for 2015, leaving a five-year gap in which the United States will not operate its own space shuttles.

NASA has begun the first round in a series of job cuts planned over the next five months as the space agency prepares to retire its fleet of space shuttles.

The space agency announced Thursday that it would cut up to 900 jobs in the next five months, beginning with about 160 job cuts Friday. Most of the first wave of layoffs will affect Lockheed Martin and ATK Thiokol, contractors that support the shuttle program by building fuel tanks and rocket boosters in Louisiana and Utah.

NASA plans to retire its fleet of space shuttles next year after completing work on the International Space Station.

Final launch of the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for May 11 from the Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle's mission is to perform maintenance work on the Hubble Space Telescope and install a new camera during a series of spacewalks.

The space agency hopes to launch its next-generation Orion shuttle, powered by Ares rockets, by 2015, leaving a five-year gap in which the United States will not operate its own space shuttles.

In the meantime, NASA is scaling back its shuttle program and eliminating manufacturing jobs since no more components for the existing fleet are needed. About 400 jobs will be eliminated through layoffs, while another 350 positions will close through attrition. Around 150 workers will be absorbed and given work on other NASA projects.

Congress is working to give NASA additional funding to extend the shuttle program into 2011 should the space agency need that time to complete the work planned for the ISS and the Hubble.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on government IT priorities. Download the report here (registration required).

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