Strike Over, but Launch Schedule Still Unclear

by












  Space News Business

Strike Over, but Launch Schedule Still Unclear

By JEREMY SINGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 06 February 2006
11:40 am ET


The machinist strike at several Boeing facilities is over, but the full impact the three-month work stoppage had on the Delta launch schedule is still unclear, according to a company spokesman.

The strike, which began Nov. 2 and ended Feb. 1, played a role in delaying the launch of satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office and NASA.

Boeing spokesman Robert Villanueva said that while new launch dates have not been established, company officials are in discussions with their government customers as well as launch range officials about when they can begin flying again.

Those launches include a Delta 4 rocket at Florida’s Cape Canaveral that will launch the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) N weather satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The manifest also includes a Delta 4 rocket scheduled to launch a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office — the first Delta 4 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base — and a Delta 2 rocket that will launch NASA’s Cloudsat instrument and the U.S.-French Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder satellite from Vandenberg.

Those satellites were all expected to launch in October, but with the strike looming, the rockets were kept in protective storage, Villanueva said.

The strike also recently caused the Air Force to announce that it had adjusted its launch schedule for its current generation of weather satellites.

The strike prompted the U.S. Air Force to award Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., a $48 million contract on Jan. 12 to cover the cost of delaying four Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites, according to Candrea Thomas, a spokeswoman for the service. The next Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite in the series, which had been scheduled to launch in late 2005, is now slated to launch in July, Thomas said in a written response to questions.

The three spacecraft that follow have been delayed from late 2007 to March 2008, late 2009 to March 2010, and late 2010 to March 2012, Thomas said.

The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program constellation was previously expected to be replaced by the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System in 2009, but those satellites have hit technical difficulty with the development of their sensors and are currently not expected to begin launching before 2012.

The strike ended when local International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union group representing Boeing Co. machinists in Alabama, California and Florida voted Feb. 1 to accept a new contract. The new agreement, which covers about 1,500 people, included bonuses and wage increases, a pension increase for employees who retire after March 1, and medical plans “at a reasonable price,” according to a Feb. 2 Boeing news release.

Roughly one-third of the striking employees already had returned to work even before the strike had concluded, according to Boeing and union officials, causing significant bitterness amongst their colleagues in the union.

Those that crossed the picket line made it more difficult for the union to negotiate from a position of strength, and likely extended the length of the strike, according to a posting on an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Web site in early January following a strike rally. ” The number of scabs has made this battle more difficult so we must remain strong and not cross that picket line,” read the posting.

Larry Olinger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers lodge in Huntington Beach, Calif., did not return a phone call requesting comment by press time .

Comments: jsinger@space.com