ULA to cut workforce by 875 workers

HARLINGEN — United Launch Alliance, an anchor tenant at Valley International Airport, will reduce its total workforce by 875 people before year’s end in hopes of becoming more competitive in the suddenly crowded space launch industry.

A spokesperson for the company did not reveal how many ULA employees in Harlingen would lose their jobs.

“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers, while we maintain our focus on mission success,” said Lyn Chassagne.

“As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals.

“We hope to accomplish the majority of the 2017 reductions through voluntary layoffs,” Chassagne added.

United Launch Alliance is a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. Reuters news service quoted ULA CEO Tory Bruno as saying a first round of 375 job cuts would come mostly via voluntary layoffs. Bruno said another 400 to 500 employees would be cut by the end of 2017.

That amounts to about one-quarter of the ULA workforce.

ULA’s a manufacturing facility here fabricates and assembles components for the Atlas V rocket.

As of June 2015, the firm had 164 employees here. The aerospace firm has been in Harlingen since its inception in December 2006 when Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing established the joint venture.

ULA is known as one of the most reliable space launch companies, with a sterling safety record.

But upstart rivals like SpaceX and Blue Origin have significantly reduced the costs of space launches of satellites and research projects, undercutting ULA’s higher-priced launches.

ULA is pinning much of its future hopes on a next-generation rocket called Vulcan. The Vulcan will cost less to build and fly than its current workhorse Atlas booster.