Finally, some good news for NOLA: NASA has chosen the Michoud Assembly Facility in Eastern New Orleans as the site for three of its major contracts for its upcoming Constellation Program.
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — The route to the moon and perhaps to Mars now goes through New Orleans — and the detour couldn’t come at a better time in the city’s struggle to rebuild its shattered economy after Hurricane Katrina.
With thousands of houses still in ruins and its population reduced by almost 170,000, New Orleans is getting a boost in the form of high-wage jobs and contracts for next-generation space systems at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.
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Whilst I don’t know any details about the management of waste products such a plant might produce, this decision will save the Michoud Facility, which has been the site for the manufacture of the Space Shuttle’s fuel tanks, due to be phased out by 2010. The consideration and potential boon to the New Orleans economy was one of the factors in the decision to place the Constellation contracts there.
“It’s been a jewel that a lot of people pass on the interstate and don’t really realize is here,” [Lockheed’s Orion Module Director James] Bray said. “But if you look at the population of New Orleans and Slidell and along the Gulf Coast, you find very technical, qualified people that come into here and make the space program go.”
Lockheed will build the crew module at the plant. Boeing will build part of the Ares rocket and navigation and control system at Michoud, as well, which built cargo planes and tank engines in WWII and during the Korean war and was involved in the Apollo and other NASA projects, as well as the Space Shuttle and now, the Constellation.
Some of the budget numbers involved: 1.73 Billion for the Ares Rocket, ~800 Million for the Navigation System. Don’t have the numbers on the Orion Module, but it’s a bigger part of the whole.
“If you look at the aerospace industry in general, they’re booked to capacity,” Bray said. “Having the equipment here and available in Louisiana, it makes sense to put more work into this location, which will bring in more jobs.”
For NOLA, good news in the form of a large cash infusion from an unexpected source: NASA, Lockheed and Boeing.