On Wednesday, March 10th, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the State of Louisiana has signed an agreement with NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility that could lead to creation of the Louisiana Space Campus, a dedicated 50-acre business park within NASA’s 829-acre site in New Orleans.
The space campus would target commercial office development, with contemporary amenities, for existing Michoud tenants and new prospects from the public and private sector to support Michoud Assembly Facility and other industry in New Orleans East. NASA and Louisiana Economic Development signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, to mutually explore development of the space campus to its highest and best use.
“This year, as we celebrate 60 years of NASA’s operation of the Michoud Assembly Facility, we proudly announce a new chapter in this site’s storied history,” Gov. Edwards said. “We are excited about partnering with NASA for the development of the Louisiana Space Campus, and we look forward to the future tenants who would locate here. From the days of the Apollo missions to the development of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, we have long looked to Michoud for a glimpse at our destiny in space. The Louisiana Space Campus will help us fulfill that destiny.”
The main building at Michoud Assembly Facility, or MAF, encompasses 43 acres of climate-controlled manufacturing space, and hosts both government and commercial tenants, including Boeing, which is assembling the Space Launch System, or SLS, Artemis rocket; and Lockheed Martin, which is developing the Orion crew capsule. The site has an extensive history of hosting defense and civil agencies, along with contractors that support the development of technological products and services. The Louisiana Space Campus would build on that foundation with a new initiative to attract leading-edge tenants.
“NASA is excited to enter into this MOU with the State of Louisiana to explore the concept of the Louisiana Space Campus,” said Director Robert Champion of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. “For 60 years, NASA has enjoyed a great partnership with Louisiana that has propelled the success of our nation to launch humans into space. This MOU represents an opportunity to further strengthen that partnership as the work at MAF moves us a step closer to landing the first woman and next man on the moon.”
MAF has been dedicated to NASA activities since 1961, including the development and construction of space vehicles. Major achievements include building Saturn V rockets for 13 Apollo and Skylab missions; development of 135 external tanks that fueled Space Shuttle flights; and current SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule assembly. Prior to NASA’s takeover of the site, Michoud served as the home of continuous government interagency activity since the 1940s, including assembly of Sherman and Patton tank engines by the Chrysler Corp.
“Right here in New Orleans at the Michoud Assembly Facility, the rockets to take Americans into outer space are now being built, and will continue to be built, to transport them to Mars,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “This agreement will further drive transformative development in New Orleans East, which is already becoming a major hub for STEM in our city. With continued partnership from the state, a Louisiana Space Campus will not only provide jobs and economic opportunity, but will also inspire us all, particularly our young people, to dream big and boldly.”
In many respects, development of the Louisiana Space Campus would mirror the Water Campus located between downtown Baton Rouge and LSU’s main campus. The 35-acre Water Campus has attracted more than $100 million in public and private investment during its first phase, with long-range plans projecting a potential 4,000 scientists, engineers, researchers and support personnel connected to the campus. In New Orleans, some 3,500 jobs already are associated with Michoud Assembly Facility operations, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Base New Orleans that supports more than 900 regional personnel.
“The Michoud Assembly Facility is a critical asset to America’s space program as well as Southeast Louisiana,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. “I’m pleased with today’s announcement of an MOU between the state and NASA, continuing strong federal and state support for NASA’s space program and the men and women who go to work at Michoud every day.”
Situated in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, the Michoud Assembly Facility is a strategic asset that has long enjoyed the support of former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond and the entire Louisiana congressional delegation, support that has helped position the state for the transformative next step of a space campus.
Business investment at the space campus would not be limited to aerospace functions, but businesses in that sector would be encouraged to explore the possibilities of the new campus. NASA would have the ability to evaluate potential tenants, ensuring that there are no security or environmental concerns for the broader MAF site.
“The execution of an MOU between LED and NASA is an exciting development for greater New Orleans and Louisiana,” said President and CEO Michael Hecht of GNO Inc. “The creation of an ‘office park for rocket scientists’ would not only support NASA, and America’s space mission, but would also create a physical hub for hundreds of STEM-related jobs in the region and state.”
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant Louisiana economy. LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana, and promotes business opportunity for employers of all sizes. In 2020, LED attracted 58 new economic development projects representing over 11,600 new jobs, 8,600 retained jobs and $12.7 billion in new capital investment. LED’s Small Business Services team, in conjunction with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, assisted more than 17,500 Louisiana small businesses and entrepreneurs in 2020.