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Falling axe strikes space shuttle workers

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This Friday, 515 employees of major space shuttle contractor United Space Alliance (USA) will be given their pink slips, and will join 1,550 former colleagues who were shown the door immediately after the landing of the shuttle Atlantis on 21 July.

USA - a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin - expects to lay off a further 285 workers by the end of the month, reducing it to just 3,100 staff compared to a 2003 peak of 10,500.

The axe is also falling on shuttle-dependent staff at Boeing and Lockheed Martin themselves. The former announced last week that it would be letting 260 people go, while the latter was preparing to ditch 100 employees from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the shuttle's external fuel tanks were manufactured.

Three hundred Michoud workers have been spared the chop. A hundred will be "closing out shuttle contracts for another six to 12 months", while the remaining 200 will be transferred to the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

In California, meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which built the shuttle's main engines, shed 300 jobs on 31 July, although not all of these redundancies were shuttle-related.

Utah-based Alliant Techsystems was responsible for the shuttle's solid rocket boosters, and will lose around 1,600 jobs as a result of the shuttle programme's death. There's more on all of the above redundancies here.

According to the BBC, space shuttle job casualties total around 8,000, including NASA Kennedy Space Center staff and contractors. Further collateral damage is likely in towns like Titusville in Florida, whose economy largely depends on Kennedy launches. ®

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