December 22, 2006

Kim Newton
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Phone: 256-544-0034

RELEASE: 06-144


When the 124th space shuttle external tank shipped from NASA’s Michoud
Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., this week, it marked another
milestone in the facility’s history - beginning with the nation’s first
trip to the moon and continuing as NASA further explores the moon, Mars
and other destinations in our solar system.

As space shuttle work continues at Michoud, NASA is making plans to use
the facility’s unique capabilities to help build the rocket and
spacecraft that will replace the shuttle.

Tuesday’s external tank shipment, scheduled to launch STS-117 in spring
2007, is nothing new for Michoud. NASA’s prime contractor for the
external tank, Lockheed Martin Corp., has manufactured and assembled the
shuttle tank there for nearly three decades. The capability that enables
it to host the tank work also positions Michoud to provide other vital
support to the Vision for Space Exploration to extend a human presence
throughout the solar system.

The Space Shuttle Program’s external tank is built at Michoud, and NASA
recently selected Michoud as the site for the manufacture and assembly
of the Ares I crew launch vehicle and Ares V cargo launch vehicle upper
stages. Ares I will carry the Orion vehicle with its crew of up to six
astronauts to space, beginning the capsule’s journey to the moon. Ares V
is the heavy-lift vehicle, which will carry large cargo to space,
including the lunar lander, for use by lunar missions.

Michoud also will support other exploration projects. Lockheed Martin,
responsible for the design, development and manufacture of the Orion
crew vehicle, will build large structures and composite parts for the
new capsule at Michoud. In addition, Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma
City - one of two companies selected for NASA’s Commercial Orbital
Transportation Services project to develop and demonstrate crew and
cargo delivery to the International Space Station - will integrate and
assemble its commercial vehicle at Michoud for launch in 2008.

These NASA-led activities will ensure that the Michoud facility will be
used to its maximum extent in implementing a robust national space
exploration program and also will actively engage the New Orleans
business community to support NASA’s exploration goals.

“These activities - for the Orion, Ares and Commercial Orbital
Transportation System projects - not only prove Michoud’s standing as an
asset to NASA’s mission goals,” said Patrick Scheuermann, chief
operating officer at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, “but also provide
long term stability for employees, local industry and the economy of the
New Orleans region as it recovers from Hurricane Katrina.”

Michoud has a long, successful history and demonstrated expertise in the
manufacture and assembly of launch vehicle and propulsion systems and
components supporting NASA exploration missions. Michoud’s space
heritage dates back to the Apollo Program of the 1960s, when the
facility was used to build the first stages of the Saturn I and V launch
vehicles - part of the family of rockets used to send American
astronauts to low Earth orbit and to the moon.

The facility, on 832 acres of land, includes one of the world’s largest
manufacturing plants with 43 acres under one roof and a port with
deep-water access - a capability providing for transportation of large
space systems and hardware.

Michoud will draw on its world-class manufacturing capabilities and
partnerships - including the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing
(NCAM) in New Orleans - to support NASA exploration projects. Founded in
1999, NCAM is a joint undertaking among government, academia and
industry to fulfill technology needs of the aerospace and commercial
markets. Through this partnership, new welding and fabrication
techniques will play a crucial role in development of the aeroshell, a
protective shell encasing spacecraft that provides an aerodynamic
surface and protection from intense temperatures during atmospheric
travel; propellant tanks; and the Orion capsule. A bonding technique
known as friction stir welding, first used on the shuttle external tank
in 2005, produces high-strength, defect-free joint welds and can
uniformly weld materials together - a vital requirement of
next-generation launch vehicles and hardware that must endure long-term
space travel. Composite fabrication, another innovative technology
pursued by researchers, involves advanced fiber placement to strengthen
construction of large, complex structures.

The Michoud Assembly Facility is a government-owned, contractor-operated
component of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The
Marshall Center directly employs some 7,000 civil servant and contractor
employees and manages a $2.3 billion dollar budget. Marshall has a
proven history of developing key space transportation and propulsion
technologies for NASA space exploration missions. Today, Marshall leads
development of the agency’s next-generation launch vehicles, the Ares I
crew launch vehicle and Ares V cargo launch vehicle; leads the Lunar
Precursor and Robotic Program effort that will pave the way back to the
moon; manages the Space Shuttle Program propulsion elements and science
operations on the International Space Station; and pursues scientific
breakthroughs to improve life on Earth.

For more information about the Ares projects on the Web, visit:

For more information about NASA programs on the Web, visit:


On the Web:
News Release

On the Web:
Photo Release

Marshall Space Flight Center
Public and Employee Communications Office
(256)544-2552 (Fax)