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Orbiter engineers may return


NASA’s selection of a contractor for its Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in the third quarter will determine Space Shuttle programme contractors’ workforce transition plans, says Boeing. The bidding CEV contractors, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman/Boeing, must start planning the transition from supporting the Shuttle to developing the new vehicle. Boeing, which oversees the Shuttle orbiters and their integration with the external tank and solid rocket boosters, must ensure the Shuttle programme has enough personnel to meet the launch needs of the final 16 flights. It has already identified about 500 former Rockwell systems-integration staff, some of whom it may want to re-employ to help with the last Shuttle launches. In 1996 Boeing bought the Rockwell division that developed the orbiter during the 1970s. About 20% of Boeing’s Shuttle workforce are eligible to retire before the CEV is planned to fly in 2012.
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