MAF aiming for key CEV Assembly role

by Chris Bergin

As NASA’s VSE (Vision for Space Exploration) gears up and its contractors prepare to start CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) construction work, the Lockheed Martin division at the Michoud Assembly Facility is readying for a switch from External Tank (ET) assembly for the Shuttle to CEV component construction.

Lockheed managers explained the unique capabilities of the Michoud plant and workforce, and described CEV work that will be performed at Michoud.

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Lockheed Martin, one of the two contractor teams competing to build the CEV, is confident that its division at the Michoud facility outside New Orleans will have the ability to provide useful 21st century design and construction facilities for construction of VSE components.

‘We offer the NASA CEV program a well-trained workforce with experience in human-rated systems and processes,’ explained Dan Ferrari, director of business development at Lockheed Martin in a Mission Success Bulletin. He went on to describe special manufacturing process enabled by the unique tooling at Michoud.

CEV would also provide opportunities for us to take advantage of State of Louisiana and NASA-funded capabilities in our National Center for Advanced Manufacturing in friction stir welding and composite structures that have been established here at Michoud,’ he said.

Michoud’s workforce currently is working primarily on the Space Shuttle, whose massive external tanks are assembled at the sprawling Lockheed facility. Jim Bray, CEV project manager at Michoud, believes that the CEV program would lessen future reductions in the Michoud workforce by serving as a program for Michoud employees to work on after the Shuttle is retired.

‘CEV will serve as a bridge program, providing new opportunities for our employees in NASA’s new Vision of Space Exploration while we safely fly out the Space Shuttle,’ Bray explained.

Lockheed and Michoud are still very much in the running to build the CEV, Bray describes, ‘We are currently updating our Phase II proposal based on updated NASA CEV… contracts requirements.’

Meanwhile, Lockheed has already assigned some initial CEV-related work to its Michoud division. ‘NASA assigned responsibility for the structure that mates the spacecraft to the launch vehicle… [for] the CEV program.’ Bray said.

‘This Spacecraft Adapter (SA) structure will be designed and assembled at Michoud. An updated proposal is due to NASA on April 20.’

Lockheed managers also believe that the CEV contract can help promote general unity at Lockheed Martin. ‘The CEV program will also help us move closer to Space Systems Company business systems and processes as we move into closer cooperation with other Lockheed Martin companies on future opportunities,’ Ferrari explained.

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