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NASA Faces Uncertain Future

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 10-01-2010 Print
As Lockheed closes the shuttle external tank plant, the Senate passes a bill that will end NASA's Constellation program.
After 37 years and 136 tanks constructed, Lockheed Martin announced the decision to end production of the space shuttle external tank at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The final tank arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, ending a production program that began with contract award on Sept. 5, 1973. Two shuttle launches remain in the program - schedule for Nov. 1, 2010 and Feb. 26, 2011.

With the end of external tank production, Lockheed announced workforce reductions have been taking place as "discrete elements" of work have concluded. On Jan. 1, 2010, Lockheed employed 1,438 employees at the Michoud Assembly Facility. The current workforce stands at approximately 600, according to a company release.

In the wake of the Lockheed news, NASA will also be forced to cancel its ambitious "Constellation" program following passage of a bill by the Senate this week. The bill, which will be sent to President Obama to sign, authorizes $58 billion to NASA over the next three years. The NASA authorization bill, S. 3729, allows the space agency to fly one more shuttle mission in addition to the two currently planned, and directs NASA to begin work on a heavy-lift rocket that could launch an expedition to an asteroid or to Mars.

For more, read the eWeek article NASA Future Uncertain as Lockheed Ends Shuttle Tank Production.


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