Rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. cut 100 salaried and hourly positions Wednesday as a response to an uncertain future of the space industry and the general economic climate.
Seventy five of those positions were eliminated in its two San Fernando Valley facilities – one on Canoga Avenue in Canoga Park, and the other at DeSoto Avenue and Nordhoff Street in Chatsworth. The layoffs bring total Valley employees to 1,100.
Rocketdyne also has operations in Alabama and Florida. It is owned by Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp. although a sale to aerospace giant GenCorp in Rancho Cordova remains pending.
The staffing cuts were necessary for Rocketdyne to serve customers in the most efficient and cost-effective way, including streamlining the organization, and redeploying overhead costs, the company said in a prepared statement.
“Over the past several years, (Rocketdyne) has also put in place a number of aggressive cost-cutting measures, including reducing facility space, travel reductions, merit pay deferrals, furloughs and significantly reducing contract labor and other service providers,” the statement said.
In 2011, Rocketdyne laid off 300 employees company-wide, with about half working out of the Valley locations.
Rocketdyne has a long and storied history in the Valley. During the 1960s, the Canoga Park plant designed and manufactured the F-1 and J-2 engines that lifted the Saturn V rocket to the moon. The end of the Apollo program saw a dramatic decrease in manpower and those that remained were put to work designing the main engines for the space shuttle, which kept the company busy until the program ended in July 2011.
In the post-shuttle era, Rocketdyne now must remain not only cost effective but relevant in the face of competition from newer space industry players, including Space Exploration Technologies – or Space X – in Hawthorne.
Rocketdyne is repurposing space shuttle main engines and developing the J-2X engine to power the Space Launch System, NASA’s next manned space vehicle for deep space missions. The company is also supplying the launch abort engine for the seven-person Crew Space Transportation-100 capsule under development by lead contractor Boeing Co. for missions to the International Space Station and low-earth orbit destinations.