— NASA is forecasting Kennedy Space Center (KSC) will lose fewer jobs when the space shuttle retires than the worst-case scenario figures the space agency published in March.

NASA told Congress earlier this year that a survey of space shuttle contractors showed that as many as 6,400 workers could be given pink slips when the shuttle retires from service in 2010. But NASA officials stressed that 6,400 was a worst-case scenario that failed to take into consideration the hundreds or thousands of new jobs that would be created at Kennedy as NASA gets rolling on the new spacecraft and rockets it needs to return to the Moon.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said earlier this year that shuttle- related job losses likely would be closer to 3,000 to 4,000 once Constellation Program work was taken more fully into consideration The second edition of a congressionally mandated shuttle work force transition report NASA released Oct. 8 shows that Kennedy Space Center will shed approximately 4,500 full-time positions (NASA calls them work year equivalents) between 2008 and 2011, the first year NASA expects to not be flying the shuttle. By 2013, however, about 1,000 full-time positions could be added at KSC as the launch center’s share of Constellation work ramps up.

Joel Kearns, the NASA Space Operations Mission Directorate’s work force transition manager, in an Oct. 9 interview, attributed the rosier forecast for Kennedy-area contractors to progress NASA has made since March in quantifying some of the Constellation-related work to be performed there.

He said the projections could continue to change as NASA updates its estimates to take into account downstream Constellation projects for which contracts have yet to be awarded.

“There’s not a lot of work related to Ares 5 and Altair lunar lander that’s included in this report because we don’t even have the government estimates we can make public to put in a report like this because they are all procurement sensitive,” Kearns said. “We have internal government estimates for what we are going to buy but we can’t put that in a public report because that would violate federal acquisition regulations.”

Kearns pointed to the Oct. 6 release of a request for information from contractors regarding the Altair work as an example of some of the steps NASA is taking to firm up its plans for buying hardware beyond the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 rocket already under contract.

He also said Kennedy’s employment forecast would become clearer as NASA gets closer to awarding a new ground support services contract. A request for proposals is due out next spring or summer with a contract award expected sometime in 2010. While NASA has some idea of how many people it will need to support future launch operations, it cannot telegraph this information to contractors gearing up to submit bids.

“That’s one of the difficulties we have in doing the work force transition report,” said. “We want to show the work force there are opportunities out there but … in some ways we are hamstrung when we do this report until we march further into the future and get more of these contracts awarded.”

stands to be the hardest hit of all NASA centers when it comes to shuttle- related job losses. NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans also stands to lose a large number of jobs when production of space shuttle external tanks comes to an end. Michoud’s contractor payrolls are forecast to decline by about 40 percent during the next couple years, from 1,900 positions in 2008 down to 1,100 positions by 2010.

NASA’s could also lose jobs as the shuttle stops flying and construction of the international space station comes to an end. Depending on how much Constellation work ultimately is performed there, Johnson-area contractors could find themselves with 400 to 2,200 fewer NASA positions to staff in 2011 compared to 2008.

Marshall Space Flight Center – the Huntsville, Ala.-based center responsible for Ares 1 – appears to be on a growth path with between 400 and 2,800 full-time positions expected to be added by 2013.

NASA’s other field centers are largely unaffected by the shuttle work force transition.

NASA is required by a 2007 law to update the transition report twice a year.