25 years in – MAF role essential

by Chris Bergin

While the 25th anniversary of STS-1 is being celebrated, the future for those at the business end of Shuttle operations are looking to the future.

In an address to workers at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), Marshall Byrd, vice president and general manager of Michoud Operations, Lockheed Martin, made a stirring address in a monthly newsletter for MAF employees, as he noted the importance of the future role the facility will play in the years to come.

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With the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina still disrupting the lives of Michoud workers, 2005 proved to be a difficult year for the facility, with the long-awaited return to flight of Shuttle Discovery on STS-121 showing that foam liberation concerns remained.

However, despite the modifications required to solve foam shedding – and the destruction of Katrina – workers managed to show an amazing sense of resilience – with their fortitude shining through as they shipped off ET-119 to KSC (Kennedy Space Center), the first tank that will fly without its troublesome PAL ramp in place.

‘Last year graphically demonstrated that fact for Michoud Operations, and 2006 will be no different,’ noted Byrd. ‘Without a doubt, 2005 was a year that none of us will forget. We delivered flight hardware, supported a successful shuttle mission and then responded to the unexpected foam loss. Shortly thereafter, Katrina became a name for the history books and changed our lives forever.

‘Through it all, however, Michoud Operations achieved our financial commitments, honed our operating processes and improved our safety performance. We successfully maintained the Michoud facility, highlighted by Katrina recovery efforts that returned 1,800 employees to work in less than 100 days.

‘Throughout every challenge, you rose to the occasion to deliver your best. That effort was necessary, it was extraordinary and it was recognized at the highest levels of NASA and Lockheed Martin. This year, the challenges are no less significant. After delivering ET-119 on February 24, the Space Shuttle team recently made the decision to replace the engine cutoff sensors in ET-119 and thereby delay the launch of STS-121 until a window extending from July 1-19.’

Byrd noted the aggressive schedule that they will play a key role in – as NASA aims to complete the International Space Station (ISS), before the Shuttle is retired in 2010.

‘A July launch allows NASA the opportunity to fly three missions this year, but doesn’t provide us relief in an aggressive production schedule,’ he added. ‘In fact, a Michoud team should be at KSC before the end of the month to initiate the remove and replace activities.’

Once the Shuttle is given its deserved retirement, work for Michoud won’t cease – as work is already in place for being a key partner in the Vision for Space Exploration.

MAF/Lockheed are already working on the second stage for the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) – which will make up part of the ultimate replacement for the Shuttle as NASA’s manned space flight vehicle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV).



‘While ET work continues, others have an eye to the future. (We are aiming to) build the Crew Exploration Vehicle, with the majority of the structural assembly planned for Michoud. Combined with Crew Launch Vehicle, a future Shuttle Derived Vehicle and other projects, Michoud is pursuing a potential $300 million in new business during 2006.

‘To maximize our success, we must continue to perform on the ET project, improve our skills and work safely and ethically. In our post-Katrina environment, management must demonstrate all the qualities of Full Spectrum Leadership and do what is necessary to retain our workforce. The first and most important thing we must do is to communicate openly, honestly and regularly.

‘The challenges are great, but in light of what we have already overcome, I have little doubt in our ability to succeed.

‘I look forward to leading you through what I expect to be a very rewarding year.’


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