NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the agency’s only large-scale advanced manufacturing facility, soon will be building liquefied natural gas tanks with commercial applications on Earth.
In a March 12 ceremony that included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., announced it is drawing on the unique experience and equipment at Michoud to manufacture the LNG tanks. Michoud also is crafting components for a new generation of NASA spacecraft that will take explorers deeper into space than they have traveled before.
The new LNG manufacturing activity represents another innovative use of this storied human spaceflight production facility. It also is the continuation of NASA’s commitment to build on the legacy of the Space Shuttle Program and be an engine of economic growth in the nation.
“We are very pleased to add Lockheed Martin’s liquefied natural gas tank production to the portfolio of advanced manufacturing work and research under way here,” said Roy Malone, director of Michoud Assembly Facility. “It is gratifying to see the manufacturing processes and capabilities developed to build large space flight structures being put to use in the energy industry here on Earth.”
With a 37-year history of producing the giant external tank for the space shuttles, and as prime contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft being built at Michoud, Lockheed Martin is familiar with the facility’s capabilities. The agreement ultimately could lower facility costs at Michoud for government and industry users, and free up money for other space exploration goals.
Producing LNGs requires the processes and capabilities of a large tank structure manufacturing site that Michoud is uniquely built to support. Lockheed Martin said it has received initial orders to manufacture cryogenic tanks for fueling LNG-powered vessels. As part of its longer-range business plan, Lockheed Martin will adapt production equipment used to manufacture the external tank for the space shuttle to a wide range of liquefied natural gas supply chain applications.
“Our entry into the LNG tank market is a prime example of how Lockheed Martin is leveraging capabilities and technologies developed for government programs to meet the needs of private sector customers who drive our nation’s economy,” said Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense. “We look forward to a long-term relationship with the state of Louisiana and the greater New Orleans area, and to bringing quality employment opportunities to the community.”
NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility is a multi-tenant campus with 43 acres of advanced manufacturing space under one roof. A number of private companies and government projects take advantage of the facility’s key capabilities, including large-envelope fiber placement equipment, friction stir welding systems, high-speed machining tools, material test labs and manufacturing infrastructure.
Managed and operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Michoud built the Saturn S-1C and Saturn S-1B boosters for the Apollo program, and the large external tank for the shuttle program. It now is building the Orion spacecraft. The facility is being modified to manufacture the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built.