NEW ORLEANS -- The Michoud Assembly Facility is about 80 percent full, according to NASA officials, as economic developers try to re-purpose it.
Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and a president of Lockheed Martin announced that new propulsion tanks will be built at Michoud, but for private industry, not for a space program.
In its heyday, scientists and engineers buzzed around the Michoud Assembly Facility, constructing the Space Shuttle's external fuel tanks.
"This Michoud Assembly Facility for many years was thriving, supporting more than 5,000 quality jobs for our people,” Jindal said at a press conference announcing the change.
But when the Space Shuttle program ended, so did thousands of jobs at Michoud. Little by little, the facility is getting new life. Boeing is supposed to manufacture part of the new Space Launch System, or SLS, at Michoud.
“SLS uses about 60 percent of this building, the 103 building, which is about 43 acres under one roof,” said Roy Malone, director of the Michaud Assembly Facility.
Tuesday, Lockheed Martin, the contractor that used to build the external fuel tanks, announced a new manufacturing project at Michoud: liquefied natural tanks.
“The tanks that we're building initially here are 295,000 cubic meter tanks, about 88 feet long,” said Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense.
The company said the first couple of tanks will be used for maritime transport, both for propulsion and to move the liquefied natural gas. They're competing with China and a couple of other companies in the northern United States, and their initial buyers are in Finland.
“Lockheed Martin is gonna leverage some parts of the facility, but we're still looking to bring in other tenants as well,” Malone said.
It's another piece of the puzzle in, ironically, putting an assembly facility back together for the future.
Jindal said the new project will bring more than 100 direct jobs to the facility.