NASA Pushes Innovation at its
Michoud Assembly Facility
In Louisiana, NASA’s projects represent some of the most ambitious work in its history.
At NASA’s 2.2 million-square-foot Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Boeing is manufacturing and assembling the 200-foot core stage of the space agency’s Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful rocket in history. The state-of-the-art manufacturing and welding process Boeing uses on the SLS includes a “friction stir” welding tool that is the largest of its kind in the world.
Also at Michoud, NASA contractor Lockheed Martin is building the Orion space capsule that the completed 322-foot SLS rocket will launch into deep space in the coming years. Additional aerospace firms at Michoud include flight-hardware maker Vivace Corp. and Orbital ATK, which produces space-launch vehicles.
Groundbreaking aerospace manufacturing is not new to Louisiana. Work on the SLS and Orion builds on a five-decade aerospace legacy at Michoud, where the first stages of the Saturn rockets that carried astronauts to the moon in the 1960s were built. The external fuel tanks for NASA’s Space Shuttle program also were manufactured at Michoud.
The site’s additional assets include 400,000 square feet of available commercial space, a deepwater port, an extensive network of massive overhead cranes, and the knowledge and expertise of 3,000 engineers and other professionals. Michoud also is home to the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a partnership between NASA, the State of Louisiana, Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans.
“Clearly, our longstanding relationship with NASA is paying big dividends for Louisiana and New Orleans,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Our National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, coupled with our aerospace training initiative at Nunez Community College, are positioning the Michoud Assembly Facility for a new aerospace era that will drive innovation, employment and economic growth for Louisiana. We are happy to be home to NASA’s assembly operations — more than 2 million square feet under roof — in one of the world’s most advanced manufacturing facilities that is attracting new investment and jobs for our people.”
Aerospace Excellence Beyond
the Crescent City
Louisiana’s aerospace innovations are not confined to New Orleans. Recently announced investments in the state include the production of the cabin subassembly for the Bell 525 Relentless, a two-pilot commercial helicopter that will carry up to 20 passengers. The Bell project builds on the helicopter industry’s deep roots in Louisiana, where the craft are vital to the energy industry.
A Texas-based subsidiary of Textron, Bell Helicopter will focus on certification of its 525 rotorcraft by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2018, before entering production.
The helicopter cabins will be assembled in Louisiana at a $37.8 million state-funded facility at Lafayette Regional Airport. Once the site is fully operational, it will support 95 direct jobs.
“Louisiana is a proven and growing aerospace market and has access to a skilled, experienced workforce as well as key resources and suppliers.”
Notable additional elements of Louisiana’s aerospace sector include Metro Aviation of Shreveport, which converts helicopters for medical and law enforcement use by clients on six continents; and helicopter maintenance and modification firm Arrow Aviation of Broussard.
The state supports new and existing aerospace operations with targeted payroll and infrastructure incentives, development-ready certified sites, low operating costs and an expedited permitting process.
Northrop Grumman services the U.S. Air Force's fleet of KC-10 air tankers at Chennault International Airport.
Louisiana’s aerospace sector includes Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, where Northrop Grumman maintains and overhauls key refueling and surveillance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.
Chennault’s assets include a 17-inch-thick, 10,700-by-200-foot runway designed for the largest aircraft in the world; 13 million square feet of concrete and about 1.5 million square feet of hangar, office and warehouse space.
Chennault’s 1.5 million square feet of hangar and building space includes a recently completed 112,500-square-foot, $18.5 million hangar that is large enough to accommodate massive, wide-body C-5 transport planes. Four of its five certified development sites have rail frontage and all have direct access to the facility’s runways.