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Michoud Assembly Facility

The Michoud Assembly Facility is an 832 acre site owned by NASA and located in eastern New Orleans. The primary product from the facility is the External Tank for the Space Shuttle. The Michoud Assembly Facility is a government-owned, contractor-operated component of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. The facility has been owned by NASA and operated by a contractor since its acquisition by NASA in 1961. Michoud is located in New Orleans, Louisiana, on about 830 acres of government-owned land. Michoud's mission is to support the continuing development and operations of the NASA space shuttle program. Specifically, Michoud provides the design and assembly of the external tank for the space shuttle.

With 2,000 employees, Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems is one of the largest employers in New Orleans. The facility features one of the world's biggest manufacturing plants (43 acres under one roof) and a port with deep-water access for the transportation of large space structures. When completed, the ET is towed on a barge across the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up to Kennedy Space Center.

The original tract of land, located in eastern New Orleans, was part of a 34,500 acre French Royal land grant to local merchant, Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent in 1763. Later, the land was acquired by French transplant Antoine Michoud, the son of Napoleon's Administrator of Domains, who moved to the city in 1827. Michoud operated a sugar cane plantation and refinery on the site until his death in 1863. His heirs continued operating the refinery and kept the original St. Maxent estate intact into the 20th century. Two brick smokestacks from the original refinery still stand before the Michoud facility.

During World War II, a production building covering 43 acres under one roof -- the world's largest building at that time -- was completed. Plywood cargo planes, landing craft and air-sea rescue vehicles rolled off the production line to support the war effort.

Early in the Korean conflict the Chrysler Corporation received a contract to manufacture tank cylinder heads at the Michoud Ordnance Plant in New Orleans, Louisiana. The facility was converted for the construction of 12-cylinder engines for Sherman and Patton tanks. Among the division's renovation tasks was the complete dismantling and relocation of a foundry from Chicago to the plant. The division also designed, procured and installed several hundred tons of humidity-control equipment for the 47-acre structure. The pilot production line went into operation, but because of changing requirements, the plant never went into full production.

George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama developed launch vehicles and systems to launch manned and unmanned spacecraft; development and integration of payloads and experiments for assigned space flight activities; and application of space technology and supporting scientific and engineering research. Marshall is most famous for the development of the Saturn family of rockets Marshall also managed the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana where the giant Saturn V rocket first stage was built.

One of the very early decisions had to do with the Michoud plant in New Orleans. Its availability was brought to NASA's attention by von Braun and his people at Huntsville. This very large plant had roughly 40 acres under one roof, with full clearance throughout. It was a plant that was first used in World War II for shipbuilding and then in the Korean War, they made tank engines there. On September 7, 1961, NASA had taken over the Michoud Ordnance plant at New Orleans. The cavernous plant - 46 acres under one roof - was assigned to Chrysler and Boeing to set up production for the first stages of Saturn I and Saturn V. NASA manufactured the first stage of the Saturn I and the first stage of the Saturn V vehicles there, and that absolutely loaded the plant, and so there was not room to also manufacture the second stage of the Saturn V in this plant. Water access played a role in all site selections for new Apollo facilities. The big Michoud Ordnance Plant outside New Orleans, where the 10-meter-diameter Saturn V first stage would be fabricated, was on the Mississippi River.

In 1973, with the Apollo program winding down, what is now Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems arrived at the facility to begin work on the next generation space launch system, the Space Shuttle. Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems products include the graphite/phenolic nose cone for th Space Shuttles External Tank, the filament wound helium pressurant tank for A2100 satellite, and more recently, a fiber placed, unlined composite LO2 tank for the X-34 experimental Reuable Launch Vehicle.

Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems designs and assembles the 154-foot long External Tank (ET), the only non-reusable major component of the Space Shuttle system. It weighs 66,000 pounds empty and 1.6 million pounds when filled with propellants.

Martin Marietta was awarded a National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") contract (No. NAS8-30382(F)) on June 3, 1981, "with its primary purpose to furnish Government property to the extent available, and acquisition such other property for use as is hereinafter provided for, in order to facilitate the Space Shuttle External Tank Project." The contract provided for, among other things, construction of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. Martin Marietta contracted with Leonard B. Hebert, Jr., Co., Inc. ("Hebert") in July 1981 to construct the LH2 Horizontal Spray Facility for the project. The contract contained Wage Decision No. LA81-4024. Hebert in turn subcontracted with Diamond Realty & Construction Co. ("Diamond") in December 1981 to complete construction of the Spray Facility.

Effective 1 October 1982,the Defense Contract Administration Services Plant Representative Office (DCASPRO) Michoud is established as a secondary level field activity of the Defense Contract Administration Services Region Atlanta. The Commander, DCASPRO Michoud is responsible in his assigned facilities, for Contract Administration Services for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In June 2002 NASA extended the Shuttle External Tank contract with Lockheed Martin to September 2008. Under the modified contract, the 35 tanks will be produced at a rate of not less than six per year, versus the eight per year agreed upon in the original contract issued in October 2000. The modification adds $341 million to the contract. The contract includes the manufacture, assembly, test and delivery of the Super Lightweight Tanks and the operations and maintenance of NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The contract also includes activities at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, and Kennedy Space Center, Florida. This is the sixth contract for production of tanks and the first to be comprised totally of Super Lightweight Tanks.

The X-33, a scaleable reusable launch vehicle demonstrator, funded by NASA in a cooperative agreement with Lockheed Martin Corporation, fabricates its oxygen tanks at Michoud. The huge X-33 liquid oxygen tank was assembled by one of the many industry partners supporting this trailblazing program, Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems in New Orleans. Its integration into the assembly structure marked the start of an ambitious schedule that calls for the X-33 vehicle to roll out and begin flight tests in the summer of 1999--just 36 months from the program's inception.

Michoud Space Systems is under contract to produce shipsets of liquid oxygen tanks for the K-1 commercial reusable space launch vehicle being built by the Kistler Aerospace Corporation. The tanks will be welded aluminum and will be used in both the first and second stages of the vehicle.

Michoud Space Systems currently is involved in the production of composite materials into the External Tank design, development of lightweight pressurized tankage for advanced satellites and commercial reusable launch vehicles, hybrid propulsion technology initiatives and production of thermal protection products for use in commercial jet aircraft.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been the forerunner in the application of computer technology in managing administrative functions. USDA National Finance Center's mission is to design, develop, implement, and operate cost effective financial, administrative, and management information systems and services supporting the missions of USDA and its customers. To achieve its mission, NFC provides centralized, automated, integrated systems and support services for payroll, personnel, administrative payments, accounts receivable, property management, budget, and accounting activities.

New Orleans is the gateway to the great system of inland waterways of the central valley of the nation. The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) affords a tidewater outlet to the Gulf that is about 37 miles shorter than the Mississippi River route. The River and Harbor Act of 1968, approved 13 August 1968 (Senate Document 97, 90th Congress, 2nd Session) provides for the construction of a 36 by 250-foot ship channel along the present alignment of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet to and including the Michoud Canal. The enlargement of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is to the south to prevent jeopardizing the levee along the north bank. The enlargement of the Michoud Canal is generally centered in the existing channel thus leaving room on each side of the channel for construction of wharves and the tieing up and servicing of ships outside the project channel. The local assuring agency is required to furnish disposal rights-of-way and the cost to contract and maintain the retaining dikes and weirs. The project provides a 36-foot-deep by 250-foot-wide ship channel, extending from the MRGO along apart of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and through the Michoud Canal. An 800-by-800-foot turning basin is located in the northern end of the project. Michoud Canal currently serves barge traffic to and from plants manufacturing chemicals and Portland cement. The channel serves the added purpose of providing direct foreign export of fertilizers. Public wharf facilities are to abut the turning basin. The project was authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1968. The total construction cost was $2,770,000. Construction was initiated in 1974 and completed that same year.

In 1984 the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, grantee of Foreign-Trade Zone No. 2 in New Orleans, Louisiana, applied to the Board for authority to relocate its general-purpose zone to a site in the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial Park, New Orleans, within the New Orleans Customs port of entry. On July 16, 1946, the Port received authority from the Board to establish a foreign-trade zone in New Orleans (Board Order 12, 11 FR 8235, 7/31/46). In 1984 the Board authorized a new 76-acre site within the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial District on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (Board Order 245, 49 FR 15006, 4/16/84). The Port is now requesting an industrial park site for large scale users that cannot be accommodated at the approved facilities. The proposed expansion site involves the 700-acre Newport Industrial Park, adjacent to the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial District on the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet at Bayou Bienvenue in New Orleans.

Contaminated sites at Michoud are being addressed under the RCRA corrective action process. On January 23, 1995, the remediation program, including all decision-making authority, was transferred to the state of Louisiana because the state received authorization from EPA to implement the RCRA program. EPA's current responsibility is to provide oversight to the state and to monitor the groundwater program.

As a manufacturing facility, past waste management disposal practices and accidents have contaminated Michoud's soil, surface water, and groundwater with trichloroethylene, volatile organic compounds, metals, diesel fuel, and other contaminants. According to Michoud officials and the operating contractor, it appears the vast majority of contamination resulted from NASA's Apollo program after the site was transferred to NASA in 1961. According to Michoud and the operating contractor, trichloroethylene in the groundwater presents the greatest risk, and the likely major cause of the groundwater contamination was a 16,000-gallon trichloroethylene spill that occurred in 1966. The contamination appears to be limited to the upper 45 feet of groundwater and soil in only a few areas.

The operating contractor first discovered environmental contamination at Michoud in November 1982. The RCRA facility assessment in August 1986 identified 57 potentially contaminated sites. According to the operating contractor, more detailed evaluations by the state and EPA determined 46 of these sites required no further action. The remaining 11 sites, plus two additional ones identified and 10 petroleum-related sites added by the regulators, comprise the 23 potential sites being investigated. NASA headquarters' March 1996 inventory of sites lists 33 sites for Michoud.

During Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 a ride-out team of 37 employees at Michoud Assembly Facility risked their lives to stay at Michoud, to keep the generators running, to keep the pumps going, and to protect the facilities and the flight hardware that were entrusted to them. The water did not get over the levy into Michoud. There was, of course, an immense amount of flooding, but the pumps were able to handle that. It wouldn't have happened without the people who were staying there, tending to doors that the winds kept trying to blow open and blow rain inside on important hardware and everything that was going on.




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