Press Release

Statement by John Chapman, External Tank Project Manager, About Work Force Reductions at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility

By SpaceRef Editor
August 1, 2008
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NASA’s primary missions are to safely fly the space shuttle until its retirement in 2010, complete construction of the International Space Station, return astronauts to the moon and prepare for further human exploration of the solar system.

One of the most important elements affecting the completion of the space shuttle launch schedule is the external tank, assembled by Lockheed Martin at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La.

NASA fully supports the efforts of its Lockheed Martin partner to maintain a knowledgeable and highly skilled workforce to continue assembly of external tanks while simultaneously reducing the overall work force in response to the planned completion of the Space Shuttle Program. The reductions at Michoud are consistent with the plan presented in the NASA Workforce Transition Strategy Initial Report submitted to Congress earlier this year.

The performance of the external tank during the most recent space shuttle launch was outstanding. Postflight analysis demonstrated little foam loss overall and no foam loss at critical areas of the tank recently redesigned to prevent foam loss during the early ascent stage.

The work force at Michoud is one of the best supporting the U.S. space program. Michoud employees returned to work in large numbers after Hurricane Katrina to regenerate the external tank assembly line even after suffering significant personal tragedy and loss of homes. Three years later, the redesigned external tanks being assembled at Michoud are the best ever produced.

While the reductions associated with the shuttle’s retirement will result in fewer people doing NASA work at Michoud, the agency plans to locate significant work there in the future. Boeing employees will manufacture and assemble the Ares I upper stage, and conduct avionics systems integration and checkout. Lockheed Martin will build structures for the Orion crew exploration capsule as well as the capsule’s Launch Abort System. In future years, the Ares V core stage and Earth departure stage, which will be needed for the return to the moon, will be built at Michoud.

Michoud will have a key role in a series of multibillion-dollar NASA projects that will enable our nation to return to the moon and go on to explore our solar system.

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SpaceRef staff editor.