How many people are involved in building the Shuttle?
January 25, 2008 2:58 PM   Subscribe

About how many people, including contractors and their employees, are involved in building the space shuttle?

I'm trying to find the largest number possible of people employed in the building of the shuttle. I'm not just talking relevant NASA employees but anyone, including office managers and even truck drivers in Louisiana, who are in some way working to help build the shuttle. (It's okay if they have other job duties too, like working on Mars rovers or whatever, but they have to somehow be involved in the Shuttle program or its engineering.)

I know this is kind of an impossible question because there are so many different companies involved around the country (like Morton Thiokol, United Space Boosters, Martin Marietta, etc) that create shuttle parts, handle avionics, etc but I'm still hoping to find some data to point me to a ballpark estimate.

Thank you!
posted by np312 to Science & Nature (7 answers total)
Can't help you on the total number, but I know that Honeywell (Aerospace) has about 40,000 people working there, a number of whom are at least tangentially related to the Shuttle design in one way or another. Tangentially could include anything from control systems to circuit board designs to any number of areas, and tracing it back there are a huge number of people who support them with raw materials, etc.
posted by langeNU at 3:35 PM on January 25, 2008

Are there any constraints on this? Do you want to know how many people were involved in building the Shuttle from design c. 1968 to completion in 1979? Do you mean from design until today, including maintenance and retrofitting?
posted by zennie at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2008

I bet there's a PR person at NASA you could talk to and get a ballpark estimate.
posted by rhizome at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2008

No limits-- though I suppose the mid- to late-eighties is the best parameters.
posted by np312 at 8:03 PM on January 25, 2008

Funny langeNU should mention Honeywell... my father used to work there designing controllers for the main engine of the Shuttle. Honeywell is huge, but they make a load of consumer products that have absolutely no bearing on the Shuttle program.

How abstract do you want to get? I mean, I assume you want to count engineers and assembly crews, truck drivers and management as well... but what about secretaries? The janitors? The security guards? The dudes that smelt the steel?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:59 PM on January 25, 2008

If you're including office managers and truck drivers in Louisiana, your scope is too open.

Consider this video of Milton Friedman talking about what it takes to put together a pencil, then extrapolate to something of the complexity and large materials commitment of the Space Shuttle.
posted by chengjih at 5:44 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Quote from a NASA engineer: "Probably fewer than 3 billion."
posted by zennie at 6:32 PM on January 27, 2008

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