ATK Lays Off 426 Workers, Mostly in Utah

The layoffs occurred on the same that day that Congress called for the national space shuttle program to end-although an ATK spokesman said they were partly driven by the company's efforts to make itself more competitive for future space exploration.

Alliant Techsystems, Inc. (ATK), laid off 414 Utah employees Thursday in response to the phase-out of the national space shuttle program and a shift in the company's focus.

The employees were part of Minneapolis-based ATK's Utah-based aerospace systems group and worked in three cities-Promontory, Clearfield, and Bacchus, company spokesman Bryce Hallowell said Friday.

The layoffs occurred on the same day that Congress approved President Obama's NASA agenda. It calls for funding of the space shuttle program to end in June 2011 after the last planned mission. ATK has long been a primary contractor for projects within the program.

The NASA reauthorization bill essentially calls for an end to Constellation-a NASA program for which ATK had been building a motor for two rockets. However, the bill also calls for the continued development of a heavy-lift space launch vehicle-which uses some components from Constellation.

“That opens a door for ATK's solid rocket motors,” Hallowell said.

He added that recently unveiled plans for NASA have prompted ATK to work on repositioning itself for future opportunities. That repositioning included Thursday's layoffs.

“We have to rescale our business to make it competitive for the next generation of space exploration,” Hallowell said.

He added that Congress has committed funds for commercial aircraft products, saying “we've got to get more competitive on that.”

In addition to the layoffs in Utah, 12 workers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, were also dismissed Thursday. Halowell said that 66 of the 426 workers who lost their jobs volunteered for retirement.

ATK has laid off numerous employees within the past year and a half. The company let 450 people go in August 2009 and 500 in October 2009; prior to Thursday's layoffs, the company had planned to lay off 800 workers this year.

ATK is one of Minnesota's 20-largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled about $4.6 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year. Shares of ATK's stock closed at $73.73 Friday afternoon-down 2.2 percent.