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Michoud Assembly Facility

Michoud Assembly Facility in 1968

The Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) is an 832-Marshall Space Flight Center, and is currently a multi-tenant complex maintained and operated by Jacobs Technology[1] to allow commercial and government contractors, as well as government agencies, to use the site.

MAF is one of the largest manufacturing plants in the world with 43 environmentally controlled acres (174,000 m2 (1,870,000 sq ft)) under one roof, and it employs approximately 3,700 people. From September 1961 to the end of the Apollo program in December 1972 the site was utilized by Chrysler Corp to build the first stages of the Saturn I and Saturn IB, later joined by Boeing Corp to build the first stage of the Saturn Vs.[2] From September 5, 1973 to September 20, 2010 it was used for the construction of the Space Shuttle's external fuel tanks by Martin Marietta Corp., Denver Colo.[3]


  • History 1
    • Hurricane Katrina 1.1
  • Other and future activities 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


First stages of Saturn V rockets being assembled at Michoud in the 1960s

The facility was originally constructed in 1940 at the village of Michoud, Louisiana by Higgins-Tucker division of Higgins Industries under the direction of Andrew Jackson Higgins on behalf of the United States government for the war production during World War II to make plywood C-46 cargo planes and landing craft. During the Korean War it made engines for Sherman and Patton tanks, and boasted a 5,500 foot paved runway. It came under the management of NASA in 1961 and was used for the construction of the S-IC first stage of the Saturn V rockets and the S-IB first stage of the Saturn IB rockets built by Chrysler Corp. It is home to the first stage of the last-constructed Saturn V, SA-515 built by Chrysler Corp. and Boeing Corp. It must be noted that its height limitation, unable to allow the construction of the bigger C-8 direct Moon vehicle, was one of the major reasons why the smaller C-5 (latter renamed Saturn V) was chosen instead of the originally planned Moon vehicle.

The Michoud Assembly Facility has been most closely associated with the construction and production of NASA's External Tank (ET) program. Throughout the Space Shuttle program, the facility produced 136 tanks. Rollout for ET-1 used for STS-1 was on June 29, 1979. The last flight ready tank, ET-122, rolled out on September 20, 2010.[4] Only one tank produced at the facility, ET-94, was not used in spaceflight and remained at Michoud as a test article.[3]

Hurricane Katrina

A section of eastern New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. MAF (green) is not flooded, while the surrounding neighborhoods (dark greenish brown) are extensively flooded.

The facility did not experience significant flooding during Hurricane Katrina due to a natural ridge that runs along its northwestern boundary, the levee that makes up the southern and eastern boundaries, and the work of the pump operators who stayed to protect the facility during the storm. There was wind damage and rain-water damage to several buildings. All shifts were initially canceled up to September 26, 2005, potentially setting back future Shuttle flights. All the buildings and the shuttle hardware within survived the hurricane without grave damage, but the roof of the main building was breached and debris damaged ET-122 stored inside; that tank was refurbished and later flew on the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-134. On September 16, 2005 NASA announced that the repairs were progressing faster than anticipated,[5] and so they would continue to use Michoud for external tank work.

On October 3, 2005, the facility officially reopened for essential personnel, though some key personnel had returned earlier. On October 31 the facility reopened to all personnel. Thirty-eight NASA and Lockheed Martin employees stayed behind during Hurricane Katrina to operate the pumping systems. They pumped more than one billion gallons of water out of the facility and more than likely were the reason that the Michoud Facility suffered very little damage. These employees were each awarded the NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal, NASA's highest bravery award.[6]

Other and future activities

The Michoud Assembly Facility also houses other organizations such as the National Finance Center operated by the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Coast Guard, and the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a partnership between the state of Louisiana, the University of New Orleans, Blade Dynamics,[7] and NASA.

NASA planned to use the Michoud Assembly Facility to build the structure for several components of the cancelled Constellation Program, including the Orion spacecraft, the Ares I Upper Stage, and the Ares V Core Stage.

NASA has an agreement in place to rent out a portion of the facility to Big Easy Studios, a New Orleans film studio.[8] This deal as been criticized by competing studios as violation NASA's rule that any deal with an outside entity must serve the agency's mission and must not compete with the private sector. NASA officials defend the agreement stating that this helps to offset the cost of unused space on the facility and that their pricing is vetted by state and local economic development agencies to ensure that they're not competing with the private market.[9] Portions of Ender's Game,[10] G.I. Joe: Retaliation,[11] and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have been filmed at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility.

See also


  1. ^ Jacobs Technology
  2. ^ Curtis Redgap. "Fly Chrysler to the Moon: the Saturn Rockets". Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  3. ^ a b Dean, James. "Michoud Declares End Of External Tank Production". Florida Today. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Sloss, Philip (22 September 2010). "MAF speak of their pride in returning ET-122 to the Shuttle manifest". NASA Spaceflight. 
  5. ^ "NASA Planning to Resume Work at Michoud Assembly Facility" (Press release). NASA. 2005-09-16. 
  6. ^ "NASA Administrator Honors Katrina Heroes" (Press release). NASA. 20060-1-05. 
  7. ^ Blade Dynamics
  8. ^ WWLTV News
  9. ^ David Jacobs (2012-09-17). "NASA defends deal with N.O. film studio". Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. 
  10. ^ Jim Cheng. "Ender’s Game filmed at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility" (Press release). 
  11. ^ G.I. Joe' film crew member killed on set in New Orleans"'". 2011-11-23. 

Further reading

  • Jerry E. Strahan (1998). Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II.  
  • Jeff Foust (2005-09-06). "The hurricane and the vision". The Space Review. 

External links

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Michoud Assembly Facility
  • NASA Michoud
  • National Center for Advanced Manufacturing
  • "Michoud Assembly Facility". 
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