NASA and United Space Alliance have extended their programme operations contract through March 2011 to allow for the shifted schedule of the final two space shuttle missions.

Extending the cost reimbursement contract will cost the US space agency $909.6m. United Space Alliance provides mission design and planning, astronaut and flight controller training, system integration, flight operations, vehicle processing, launch and recovery, vehicle sustaining engineering, and flight crew equipment processing

NASA decided in July to move the penultimate flight originally scheduled for mid-September to 1 Nov and the final mission to 26 February 2011 because the payload Discovery was to deliver to the International Space station in September would not be ready in time.

The contract extension is not expected to alleviate United Space Alliance's planned 1 Oct layoff of more than 1,400 workers across the country.

Source: Flight International