NEW ORLEANS -- When the Shuttle Atlantis touched down in 2011, it ended the shuttle's 30 years in space. It also shuttered the need for more than 600 jobs at the Michoud Assembly Facility where the shuttle's external tanks were built.
But now Boeing is building the next two phases of Michoud's space future, the Orion capsule and the heavy lift rocket that will eventually lift the capsule 15 times beyond the International Space Station’s orbit. Both will be built here.
“It was extremely critical, and we offered the best manufacturing at the lowest cost for space launch systems that there was, and we had to prove ourselves, and we did,” said Malcolm Wood, deputy chief operating officer of the Michoud Assembly Facility.
But those two massive programs occupy only half of the manufacturing space Michoud has to offer.
“And hence we're looking at other industries to come in here and occupy this space. This is a very unique facility,” Wood said.
With a machine shop four acres large, Michoud is leasing out space to companies in need of instant infrastructure.
Crescent Unmanned Systems, a new Louisiana company that designs and produces remote controlled drones, saw what it had to offer and was sold immediately.
“Having access to millions of dollars worth of equipment and advanced manufacturing as well as personnel is something that any small business would love to have, but being under capitalized prohibits,” said Charles Easterling of Crescent Unmanned Systems.
And there are other companies besides Crescent Unmanned Systems. But Michoud says it still has 30 percent of space to lease, and every tenant reduces their operating costs, which makes them a more valuable partner with the federal government.