Press Release

Gulf Coast Key to NASA’s Future Exploration Plans

By SpaceRef Editor
August 26, 2007
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Gulf Coast Key to NASA’s Future Exploration Plans

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – Future NASA astronauts who land on the moon will owe their success in part to the men and women of the Gulf Coast, who are already at work on the next generation of space travel. NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans both will have critical roles in the Constellation Program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon by the end of the next decade.

At Stennis Thursday, workers broke ground on the new A-3 test stand where engineers will test the J-2X upper stage engine. The engine will power the new fleet of rockets NASA is developing. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Scott “Doc” Horowitz, Stennis Center Director Richard Gilbrech, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Sen. Thad Cochran, Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Gene Taylor, and is a sign of the futuristic changes on the Gulf Coast.

“NASA has ambitious plans for astronauts to set up a lunar outpost in preparation for eventual journeys to Mars,” said Gilbrech. Gilbrech was recently been named to lead the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will not be able to accomplish these goals for the nation without the skilled workforce and unique capabilities of the Stennis and Michoud facilities.”

Michoud recently marked the start of Constellation work at the facility. NASA is transforming Michoud operations to enable it to accommodate multiple programs — both space shuttle and Constellation — at the same time.

The large Michoud complex will be critical in manufacturing major pieces of the Orion crew capsule, the upper stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle, and the core stage of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle.

“Michoud has been supporting the U.S. space program since its earliest days, when parts of the enormous Saturn rockets were manufactured here,” said Sheila Cloud, acting chief operating officer and transition director for Michoud. “For those who weathered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and still struggle with personal challenges related to the storm, it’s particularly heartening to know that our dedicated and tenacious workforce will enable exploration in the future.”

NASA’s Constellation Program is developing the Ares rockets and Orion crew capsule to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. On the lunar surface, astronauts will learn to live off the land to help prepare for future journeys out into the solar system. Ares I will launch Orion, which will carry as many as six astronauts to the International Space Station or four to the moon. Ares V will be a heavy-lift cargo-launcher.

The designs of the Ares and Orion spacecraft build on so-called heritage technologies, drawing on elements of Apollo and the space shuttle, and updating them with contemporary materials, manufacturing techniques and safety features. The agency is drawing from existing workforce, processes, infrastructure, facilities and equipment as much as possible to ensure Constellation’s success.

“The testing heritage of Stennis was a key contributor in the agency’s decision to build the new A-3 stand for J-2X testing,” said Gilbrech. “As in the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, large elements of the Ares and Orion will be manufactured and assembled at Michoud, a facility tailored for space hardware of this scale.”

With the first Constellation test flight less than two years away, activity on the Gulf Coast is increasing quickly. Ares I and Orion are expected to be operational, launching with crews of astronauts, by 2015. For more on the Constellation Program, visit:

For more on the groundbreaking at Stennis Thursday, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.