Orion to Create Jobs

Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday he is optimistic that the 300 to 400 jobs created by Lockheed Martin’s decision to assemble NASA’s Orion spaceships at Kennedy Space Center will be the first of thousands of jobs tied to the space agency’s new moon-landing program.

Bush, in a rare visit to the Space Coast, joined about 140 government and industry officials Thursday at the Radisson at the Port hotel for a celebration of NASA’s decision to pick a contractor that plans to assemble the Orion crew transport craft at KSC. In the past, America’s manned spaceships were assembled somewhere else and shipped here for launch.

Bush last visited Brevard County on Dec. 14, 2005, to participate in a bill-signing event in Titusville, according to Kristy Campbell, his deputy press secretary.

Winning that work is a first step in preserving as many space jobs as possible after NASA retires its space shuttle fleet around 2010. Some predictions indicate the number of people employed at KSC could fall from 15,000 today to 10,000 or fewer. Economic development officials say landing as much work as possible on Orion and related projects is key to minimizing the impact of the shuttle’s retirement.

“If we sat and did nothing, we could be guaranteed tremendous economic losses,” Bush told a small group of reporters. “(Brevard) is the center of the new means by which to access space. Our expectation is it’ll be a growing industry.”

Orion should ultimately employ 2,500 to 3,000 workers at KSC by 2008 and likely through 2019, program manager Cleon Lacefield said. That does not count jobs created by the newly proposed Ares rockets that would launch crew and cargo on the moon trips.

The number also doesn’t count support jobs in fields that range from firefighting to security to accounting.