| COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. March 31
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. March 31 U.S. contractors
involved in human spaceflight will have to lay off up to 10,000
workers unless NASA accelerates orders for a new lunar lander and
the space shuttle replacement program, a senior Boeing Co (BA.N)
official said on Tuesday.
The five-year gap between the end of the space shuttle program
in 2010 and the follow-on Constellation program's first flight in
2015 is a challenge for the companies involved, Brewster Shaw,
vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration,
told reporters at a space conference.
Shaw said the five biggest contractors in the sector faced
combined layoffs of 8,000 to 10,000 workers because of the gap.
The five biggest contractors are Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp
(LMT.N), Alliant Techsystems Inc ATK.N, United Technologies
Corp's (UTX.N) Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and United Space
Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture.
The companies and their smaller suppliers were urging
lawmakers and NASA to accelerate work on the Ares 5 program, the
cargo component of the Constellation program, as well as the
Altair lunar lander program, Shaw said.
Initial study contracts were already being let, but the
production contracts -- worth several billions dollars -- are not
expected until 2012, which would force companies to lay off
workers in the interim, he said.
Shaw acknowledged that some layoffs, possibly up to half, were
probably inevitable given a shift from operational work on the
shuttle to more developmental work on its replacement. Much would
depend on funding levels in the Obama administration's budget for
fiscal 2010, which begins on Oct. 1.
The White House's broad budget proposal unveiled in February
appeared to have a "very flat" run-up in funding from 2010, which
meant NASA would lose buying power, Shaw said.
Shaw, a former astronaut, also said initial statements from
the Obama administration showed support for returning humans to
the moon, but did not point to strong support for former President
George W. Bush's push to put humans on Mars.
(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)