Germany to Disband Space Agency

BERLIN--Germany is combining its two space programs into a single institution in an effort to save overhead costs and cope with a shrinking space budget. The merger, approved last week by the Cabinet, is expected to wipe out several dozen management positions but spare most research slots.

Since it was founded in 1989, the Bonn-based DARA has run the German space program, while the DLR, based in Cologne, has focused on research and development. About a quarter of DARA's 260 jobs, mostly management positions, are expected to be eliminated through attrition or transfers by 1999, and DARA itself will dissolve. The fate of DLR's 4500-person staff is unclear, although the research organization's 1620 scientists appear likely to keep their jobs.

The consolidation will result in a new organization called the German Aerospace Center that will keep the DLR acronym. Germany's Parliament plans to move quickly to implement the merger, now scheduled to take place later this year. In the meantime, finance ministry officials are pushing for major cutbacks in contributions to the international space station, to which Germany has committed about $1.5 billion through 2004.