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Space Station Reductions to End 4,000 Jobs : Aerospace: The program cuts will hit hard in Southern California. McDonnell Douglas says it will lay off 1,000 workers.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its contractors are expected to eliminate more than 4,000 jobs by the end of the year because of the White House decision to scale back the space station, according to NASA and industry sources.

The cutbacks from a work force of 11,000 will hit hard in Southern California, where much of the contracting work is being done. McDonnell Douglas Aerospace plans to lay off about 1,000 workers at facilities in Huntington Beach, Houston and St. Louis, a company official confirmed Thursday.

McDonnell Douglas expects its subcontractors to let go another 1,000 workers, while cuts at Grumman Corp., Boeing Co. and other aerospace firms are likely to push the private-sector job toll even higher, officials said.

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In addition, about 1,300 government engineers and managers will be cut from the space station payroll by early next year, according to NASA officials. Some of those civil service employees will be reassigned to other jobs, while others may choose to participate in a recently announced buyout program.

The reductions, which would eliminate more than a third of the government and industry jobs now devoted to the space station, are largely the result of President Clinton’s decision earlier this year to redesign and reduce the cost of the orbiting space laboratory. The space station is intended to serve as a permanent platform for biological and industrial materials research.

“We’re looking at a substantial reduction in the number of people working on (the) space station, because we’re working with an extremely tight budget,” said NASA spokesman Geoffrey H. Vincent. “The ultimate decisions for the fine-tuning of the numbers comes from the contractors. But it is clear that when we drive down the funding levels, it’s going to drive down the work force.”

The layoffs come as the Administration is negotiating a deal to bring the Russians into the space station program as full partners, raising concerns on Capitol Hill about the loss of even more jobs in an industry already wracked by Pentagon cutbacks.

“It certainly will hurt,” said McDonnell Douglas spokesman Thomas E. Williams. “We’ll just have to try to get through it.” Williams said it is still too early to tell how the aerospace concern’s job losses will be apportioned among its facilities.

As part of the plan to scale back the space station, NASA has told McDonnell Douglas that it will receive only $427 million for space station work in the fiscal year that began last Friday, down from more than $700 million last year.

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The company suffered a major blow last summer, when the redesign team decided to drop the McDonnell Douglas-designed propulsion system in favor of a Lockheed system built for a military satellite. If the Russian deal goes through, the Lockheed system, “Bus One,” could be replaced by a Russian design.

After McDonnell Douglas, the biggest loser is Long Island, N.Y.-based Grumman Corp., which will see its space station labor force drop from 860 to 50, according to NASA sources.

Under the old space station program, Grumman was responsible for integrating the work of the program’s three major contractors--McDonnell Douglas; Boeing’s missile and space division in Huntsville, Ala., and the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International, based in Canoga Park.

NASA has made Boeing the prime contractor, eliminating almost all of Grumman’s work.

A Boeing spokesman in Huntsville said his company will lose 200 to 300 jobs. At Rocketdyne, which is building the space station’s electrical system, a spokeswoman said the effects of redesigning and job losses will be minimal.

To meet lower budget goals, NASA has been forced to stretch the space station construction schedule three years, to 2003. Every additional year costs the program about $2 billion.

The Administration estimates that the scaled-back station will cost $19 billion more before it is ready to house a crew of four in space. That is in addition to $8 billion spent on development and $3 billion in indirect costs.

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* ON THE MEND: Thanks to its own cost cuts, McDonnell Douglas is on the financial rebound. D3.

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