Atlas 5 rocket cores

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — United Launch Alliance plans to eliminate more than 400 jobs in 2017 in addition to the 375 it plans to cut this year, the head of the Denver-based launch services provider said April 13.

ULA, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that builds and operates the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, currently employs roughly 3,400 people throughout the United States. On April 8, ULA told The Denver Post it planned to eliminate about 375 jobs in 2016 largely through voluntary separation

In an April 13 interview at the 32nd Space Symposium here April 13, Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said a second round of job cuts is planned for 2017.

“We’re going to do one more next year ­— about the same size, a little bit bigger — and then we’re going to be done,” he told SpaceNews. “This year is 375. Next year’s is a little bit larger— 400-and-something, but less than 500 — and then we’re finished. And then I intend to be done-done, hit my competitive price points, and if anything I expect to grow after that.”

Bruno said the job cuts would hit ULA’s Denver-area headquarters as well as manufacturing sites in Alabama and Texas and launch sites in Florida and California.

“It’s about all the things we’re doing to be more efficient, more competitive and to cut costs,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re going to be doing the same work because we’re more efficient with less people. That’s what’s driving that.”

ULA is facing tough competition from SpaceX for national security and civil launches. At the same time, many of the Defense Department’s major satellite programs are nearing full on-orbit deployment, which could mean fewer launch opportunities to go around. ULA is counting on the next-generation Vulcan rocket it is developing with a mix of Air Force and corporate money to achieve a $100 million-per-launch price point.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.