In This Edition

SLS Forward Skirt Assembly Completed


On July 24, 2018, the forward skirt assembly was finished.  This marks the completion of the first major piece of core stage hardware for SLS Exploration Mission-1. Constructed, assembled and tested at MAF, the forward skirt serves two important roles: it connects the upper part of the rocket to the core stage, and it houses many of the flight computers, or avionics, which are also called the “brains” of the rocket.  The major avionics testing focused on controlling navigation and communication during the critical parts of launch flight.  This completion of the forward skirt now readies the rocket for joining and integration of the core stage.  The integration will take place in two joins. The forward join will include the forward skirt, liquid oxygen tank and intertank, while the aft join will include the liquid hydrogen tank and the engine section.

Letter From Leadership

Keith Hefner. Director

Dear Michoud Team,

The work that we do here at Michoud is not only important to our community here in New Orleans, but to the state of Louisiana and our great country. The NASA team, along with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are building and outfitting the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, and the Orion crew capsule which will carry NASA’s astronauts farther than we’ve been in the history of manned spaceflight. The activity and progress that’s being made today is something to be proud of…something that hasn’t been achieved since the days of the Shuttle Program.

We recently had the opportunity to share the great work that we’re doing, when NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and members of his team, media representatives, and key stakeholders visited Michoud. A recap of the visit is included in this issue of the Michoud Messenger.

While the NASA Administrator was here at Michoud, we discussed one of the mainstays of our daily work…safety. Part of these discussions included future plans to make sure we’re protecting you, our workforce, but also the critical pieces of hardware being built at MAF. We will share more as we get further details, but plans are being made now to institute a stronger policy concerning visitor access to our facility. It takes the daily vigilance of each and every one of us to protect what we work so hard to build, so I appreciate in advance your adherence to the new policy when it is rolled out.

Another key to our ability to ensure our tenant and workforce safety is our ability to communicate timely and accurate information in emergency situations. Since our last Michoud Messenger, we’ve rolled out another new communication tool called MAF Alert. Tenants and visitors to Michoud can subscribe by texting MAFALERT to 888777 on a smart phone. By subscribing, you’ll receive instant notifications via email and text messages to your designated cell phone(s) from our MAF Emergency Management Team.

One of the features which I think makes Michoud such a unique place to work is the array of amenities we offer to our tenants and you, their employees. In the coming months, please watch for more news about a series of open houses at the Ochsner Health Center – Michoud. Ochsner offers a significant healthcare option, right here on our campus, with primary care treatment, as well as access to specialty services including cardiology, neurology and diabetes education through telemedicine, a virtual service accessed via your computer. To schedule an open house for your team, contact Patti Muller at 504-842-9954 or

In addition, I’m pleased to report that the cafeteria in Building 351 has reopened. Plans are also in the works to upgrade the look of our cafeteria in 102.

On a final note, I’d like to congratulate the Orion Program and entire Lockheed Martin team who worked diligently to complete the welding on the Orion pressure vessel for Exploration Mission-2. Congratulations are also in order for the SLS Program and Boeing, who recently finished the rocket’s forward skirt for EM-1. Well done, teams!

Keith Hefner

Director, Michoud Assembly Facility

Editor’s Note: If you have a question or topic you would like to see Keith address in his column, please email him at

Orion at the White House

NASA’s Orion spacecraft was displayed on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 23 as part of the Made in America Product Showcase. The Orion spacecraft flew atop a Delta IV Heavy for Exploration Flight Test-1 on December 5, 2014. The hardware was manufactured by Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, at Michoud in 2011. It was then delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in July 2012 where final assembly, integration, and testing was completed.

Orion is currently preparing for its first integrated mission, Exploration Mission-1. During this mission, an uncrewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks paving the way for the next mission, Exploration Mission-2. Recently the Orion team completed the final weld of the EM-2 pressure vessel which will take astronauts to the Moon, Mars and beyond.









In an emergency situation, timely and accurate information is vital to your safety. NASA recently invested in a tool to help communicate with all visitors and tenants, during emergencies, called MAF ALERT.

MAF ALERT is an emergency notification system that allows the Emergency Management Team the ability to contact subscribers with instant notifications via email and text messages to cell phones. Subscribers will receive information during a major crisis, severe weather warnings and other potential threats to the facility.

Sign Up for MAF ALERT Today!

Web Address:


Employee Feature

  • Name: Captain Terrance (Terry) J. Fitzgerald
  • Title: Harbor Master/Marine Operations Manager
  • Role: Support operations and maintenance of the Michoud harbor. Support NASA’s Space Launch System and Marshall Space Flight Center’s Marine/Logistics Transportation Team with manning, maintaining and operating the NASA barge Pegasus.
  • How long have you been in your current role?: I have been the MAF harbor master for more than 9 years and the marine operations manager for Pegasus for more than 2 years.
  • What’s your favorite part of your job?:  It’s what I enjoy. Being on the water and working in the marine industry as a captain most of my life, it’s a natural for me. I am very excited to be involved with Pegasus and marine transportation for NASA.
  • What excites you the most about being a part of the MAF family?:  Being at MAF, I was able to be a small part of the external tank program supporting Pegasus and the transportation of external tank. Now here we are at the beginning of a new program and a new mission for Pegasus supporting Space Launch System and Core Stage. It is an honor to be a part of something so historical and something to be very proud of. It has been a pleasure working with all the NASA personnel and craft, especially hearing all the stories of the evolution of the MAF site over the years.

NASA Administrator Views Progress Building SLS and Orion Hardware

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made his first official visit to NASA’s rocket factory, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Aug. 13, for tours and briefings on progress building the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

"What we're doing here is something that's never been done before," said Bridenstine. "We're launching the biggest rocket carrying the heaviest payload capacity that's ever flown. It's going to send our crew vehicles into deep space to areas we have never flown humans before. It's a brand new, very large project that is unmatched in the world and will remain unmatched for a very long time."

Bridenstine, joined by Jody Singer, acting director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Keith Hefner, director of Michoud, toured the massive facility where manufacturing and assembly of the largest and most complex parts of SLS and Orion are underway. SLS will send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and critical hardware on bold exploration missions to the Moon and beyond.

The tour highlighted the SLS core stage which, flanked by two solid rocket boosters, will provide the thrust to propel the vehicle to deep space. The administrator had the opportunity to view SLS hardware just as engineers are putting the finishing touches on the core stage parts by testing avionics, installing special equipment inside the structures and applying thermal protection systems.

Standing beneath the massive liquid hydrogen tank, which comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and will hold 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, Bridenstine marveled at the progress building NASA's new deep space rocket.

Bridenstine also viewed Orion's latest milestone, the welding completion of the primary structure of the crew module, or pressure vessel, by engineers at Michoud. The pressure vessel is the primary structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere astronauts will breathe to allow them to work in the harsh environment of deep space. This pressure vessel will carry the first astronauts to missions beyond the Moon on Exploration Mission-2.

"This is a critical piece of America's architecture for our return to the Moon and ultimately, it's a strategic capability for the United States of America," said Bridenstine. "I cannot overstate how important this capability is to America and how all of the team members who work here are contributing to a capability where countries around the world are seeking to partner with the United States as we return to the surface of the Moon and into orbit around the Moon."

NASA’s New CFO and HQ team visit MAF

Recently, NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWit (twelfth from left) and Deputy Chief Financial Officer of Finance Joe McIntyre (tenth from left) visited Michoud Assembly Facility hosted by MAF Director William Keith Hefner (ninth from left). With a host of colleagues, DeWit and McIntyre had the opportunity to tour the facility and learn about the work being done on NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion projects. The group also toured NASA’s Pathfinder and Pegasus barge highlighting the history of the barge and its role as a NASA asset.





Congressman Culberson's staff member visits Michoud

Leslie Albright (fourth from left), majority staff member from the Office of Chairman John Culberson, House committee on appropriations, subcommittee on commerce, justice, and science, visited Michoud May 31. Albright oversees accounts for the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and the National Science Foundation. Accompanying Albright was (from left) Karen Pearce, senior legislative affairs specialist for the National Science Foundation; Lionel Dutreix, MAF deputy chief operation officer; Paul Juola, Lockheed Martin space vice president for government relations; Steve Ernst, Boeing senior manager; and David Doss, S3 director of business development.






STEM Outreach at MAF

On May, 15, NASA MAF STEM Team participated in the New Orleans Baby Cakes STEM Outreach Day. More than 9,000 children from the state of Louisiana experienced the NASA photo kiosks, stickers, great lithographs and virtual assembly of the SLS and Orion crew capsule. Children were also given an opportunity to speak to MAF engineers, scientists and members of the US Coast Guard. The STEM-focused education day was held in conjunction with the New Orleans Baby Cakes baseball game. This annual event is focused on getting kids excited about baseball and sparking students’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering and math and the STEM opportunities that exist throughout the region.





MAF in the Community

Lionel Dutreix, deputy chief operating officer for NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, addressed the LaSTEM Advisory Council regarding the current projects for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion on July 18. The LaSTEM Council is charged with coordinating and overseeing the creation, delivery, and promotion of STEM education programs, increasing student interest and achievement in the fields of STEM, ensuring the alignment of education, economic development, industry, and workforce needs, and increasing the number of women who graduate from a postsecondary institution with a STEM degree or credential. The Council includes representatives from higher education institutions, various boards of education, as well as Louisiana congressional representatives.





August 2018, Volume 9, Issue 2  

The Michoud Messenger is the official publication for the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. Each issue is published bi-monthly for civil servants, contractors, and site tenants. For suggestions or submissions, please contact Kristy Brumfield at

Acting MSFC Director: Jody Singer
MAF Director: Keith Hefner
Layout and Design: Shannon La Nasa
Photography: Steven Seipel, Jude Guidry and Eric Bordelon
Editors: Janet Anderson, Stephanie Kelley and Kristy Brumfield

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Michoud Assembly Facility
13800 Old Gentilly Rd.
New Orleans, LA 70129