U.S. Space Workforce
Trends among the six sectors examined have remained fairly consistent over time, with the Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing and Federal Space Research and Technology categories increasing over periods of 1, 5, and 10 years.
There are hundreds of space companies distributed throughout the United States, including small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and large organizations with thousands of individuals. A sample of these companies is provided in Exhibit 4c.
The U.S. space workforce declined by ##% from 2010 to 2011, continuing a five-year trend of annual decreases, with the total now approximately ##% below the average employment level from 2001 to 2011. NASA’s civil service workforce remained relatively steady. Layoffs related to the end of the Space Shuttle program continued to affect former shuttle contractors through 2012, although there were signs of recovery in some space-centric regions by the end of the year.
The ongoing impacts of the economic slowdown and the reductions in NASA’s contractor workforce are not the only issues affecting U.S. space industry employees. The American aerospace workforce is aging. As shown in Exhibit 4k, the ages of both the NASA workforce and the broader aerospace workforce are clustered in the 40- to 60-year age range.
As of July 2011, the number of employees associated with the shuttle program nationwide had dropped to approximately ## contractors and ## civil servants for a total of ## employees, compared to a high of ## during the 1990s. NASA workforce planners estimate that the number of shuttle contractors will be reduced to ## by the close of FY 2012, and from there to ## contractors during FY 2013.
In 2011, NASA’s Space Shuttle Program came to an end. The shuttle program had been a major source of employment for the U.S. aerospace workforce. Anticipating the retirement of the shuttle, NASA developed strategies and policies for the transition of the government and contractor workforce, expecting that when the shuttle program concluded, many of the associated professionals would transition to the Constellation Program. However, funding for the Constellation Program was cancelled under the U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2011 federal budget.
The BLS data characterizing the American space workforce does not include U.S. military space personnel, who constitute a dedicated “space cadre” maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Implemented by the U.S. National Security Space Office (NSSO) in 2001 to address a perceived gap in national military space readiness, the DoD space cadre is designed to be a force of highly competent professionals skilled in the operational and tactical demands of the space medium, including the technical requirements of space vehicles, ground systems, and space systems.
Space salaries have increased even as U.S. space employment has declined. In 2010, the combined average salary across the six core U.S. space industry sectors was $##. This was more than double the average 2010 U.S. private-sector salary of $##, reflecting the tendency of space jobs to require high levels of technical education and training that can generate high-value products and services.