News Briefs – July 10, 2020

Bath Iron Works lays off some workers during strike

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works in Maine is laying off an undisclosed number of workers because of a strike that’s in its third week.
The workers who were laid off belong to Machinists’ Local S7, not the production workers who are on strike, Machinists Local S6, according to a memo from Dirk Lesko, the company’s president.
The memo said the production slowdown is causing work to dry up for other workers in the shipyard. “The first functions impacted by this are surveyors and trade inspectors,” he wrote July 7.
More than 4,000 production workers went on strike on June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s final contract offer.
The three-year proposal would’ve given the workers a 3 percent wage increase in each year, but the dispute focuses more on seniority, subcontractors and work rules than on pay and benefits.
The union met Monday with a federal mediator. The company was also expected to meet with the mediator this week. The company had no comment on negotiations, or the layoffs.
The last strike, in 2000, lasted 55 days.
Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers. The company builds Navy destroyers, the workhorse of the fleet. AP

NASA adds more safety fixes for Boeing’s crew capsule

NASA has added more safety fixes for Boeing’s space capsule before it can fly astronauts following a pair of close calls during last year’s test flight.
In closing out the seven-month investigation, NASA officials said July 7 they have now identified 80 corrective actions, mostly involving software and testing, that must be done before the Starliner capsule launches again. The previous count was 61.
“It’s a bit of a wake-up call for NASA and its contractors” across the board, said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program.
During its space debut last December with no one on board, the Starliner ended up in the wrong orbit and could not reach the International Space Station. Ground controllers barely had time to solve another software problem that could have destroyed the capsule at flight’s end.
Boeing will repeat the flight later this year before attempting to launch astronauts next spring.
SpaceX, meanwhile, successfully launched two NASA astronauts to the space station in May. They will return home next month aboard their Dragon capsule, splashing down off the Florida coast.
In hindsight, NASA did not focus enough on the software portion of the Boeing flight, Stich said. The space agency instead probably concentrated more on SpaceX because of its non-traditional approach to software development, he acknowledged.
Boeing had plenty of experience working on large NASA projects like the space shuttle and space station, and so NASA was “a little more used to the Boeing process,” Stich said.
NASA has since added more of its own staff to monitor software development at both Boeing and SpaceX. AP

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