Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana expects NASA's newly announced heavy-lift rocket program to generate up to 2,000 local jobs, restoring center employment to about 10,000 people by 2016, he said today.
"It's absolutely great to have the definitive rocket that we're going to go build actually be announced," he told reporters. "It's awesome for the nation, for NASA and for the Kennedy Space Center."
NASA on Wednesday announced plans to build a rocket more powerful than the Apollo program's Saturn V launcher for human exploration missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
A first unmanned test flight of the Space Launch System is planned in 2017 and a first crewed flight by 2021.
Cabana expects between 1,300 and 1,600 engineers and technicians will be needed to process the rocket for its first test flight, with another 300 to 400 working on the Orion capsule that will fly atop the rocket.
Before then, Cabana said work already in progress will continue to modify launch pad 39B, the Vehicle Assembly Building, a mobile launch tower and other facilities needed to support the rocket.
"All of this construction-type work starts right now," he said.