Signs of Expansion Amid Mass Layoffs

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Space layoffs are accelerating this month in the wake of the final space shuttle flight. Meanwhile, commercial space companies are expanding in Florida, California and Texas as they ramp up programs designed to carry American astronauts into space.

First, the bad news:

  • Approximately 1,000 space shuttle workers will lose their jobs this month, including 515 at United Space Alliance’s Houston operations and 285 additional USA workers in Huntsville, Houston and Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • Boeing and Lockheed Martin are also planning layoffs
  • ATK laid off approximately 100 employees in Utah as a result of the space shuttle’s demise.

Meanwhile, there is some good news on the commercial space front:

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana said he is optimistic a deal will close soon to transfer control of a former shuttle hangar to Space Florida.

He said that will clear up red tape, and enable what he described as “a commercial company” to move into the building known as Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3, where it hopes to employ 500 to 600 people….

In an interview after the chamber luncheon, Cabana declined to disclose the company’s identity. But The Boeing Co. confirmed in July that it is in negotiations with NASA and Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, to build a commercial space taxi [CST-100] in a former shuttle hangar at KSC.

SpaceX is also expanding its operations on the Space Coast with state help:

More than $7 million in recently approved state funding aims to help SpaceX expand Cape Canaveral facilities to increase its local launch rate and potentially bring hundreds of jobs to the area.

The board of Space Florida, the agency in charge of growing the state’s aerospace business, has approved $7.3 million for the infrastructure upgrades.

Up to $2.3 million will help transition a former Delta II hangar for processing Falcon 9 rockets. Another $5 million will aid construction of a new payload integration and encapsulation facility near the Falcon 9 pad at Launch Complex 40.

SpaceX, which is said to be investing significantly more in the projects, has aggressive plans to launch monthly from the Cape by 2015. Twenty Cape launches are currently under contract, including 13 for NASA.

SpaceX posted the following updates on Twitter spotlighting its expansion in Florida and elsewhere:

  • More on expansion- SpaceX has taken over Hangar AO at the Cape, big enough to process 2 Falcon 9 rockets. Needed as launch rates increase
  • Hangar AO most recently used for Delta II. Had been used for Voyager & Ulysses.
  • Expansion follows SpaceX doubling size of TX test site & growing space in Hawthorne. Prep to fulfill >$3B in contracts.