NASA Helps Lockheed Martin to Produce Tanks for Liquefied Natural Gas

An aerial view of the manufacturing area at Michoud Assembly Facility in 1968

Lockheed Martin is starting the production of cryogenic liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Some technologies that were developed for the Space Shuttle’s external tanks are now being applied to meet the fast-growing demand for LNG storage and transportation.

In a ceremony Tuesday that included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., announced it is drawing on the unique experience and equipment at Michoud to manufacture the LNG tanks. Michoud also is crafting components for a new generation of NASA spacecraft that will take explorers deeper into space than they have traveled before.

The new LNG manufacturing activity represents another innovative use of this storied human spaceflight production facility. It also is the continuation of NASA’s commitment to build on the legacy of the Space Shuttle Program and be an engine of economic growth in the nation.

“Louisiana is at the forefront of the natural gas boom, and we are proud that Lockheed Martin has selected Louisiana to pursue new practical applications and technologies that harness this growing energy source,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. “ Their investment in our state demonstrates the confidence they have in our world-class infrastructure, our strong business climate, and our incomparable workforce.”

“Our entry into the LNG tank market is a prime example of how Lockheed Martin is leveraging capabilities and technologies developed for government programs to meet the needs of private sector customers who drive our nation’s economy,” said Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense. “We look forward to a long term relationship with the State of Louisiana and the greater New Orleans area and to bringing quality employment opportunities to the community.”

“We are very pleased to add Lockheed Martin’s liquefied natural gas tank production to the portfolio of advanced manufacturing work and research under way here,” said Roy Malone, director of Michoud Assembly Facility. “It is gratifying to see the manufacturing processes and capabilities developed to build large space flight structures being put to use in the energy industry here on Earth.”

As part of its longer-range LNG business plan, Lockheed Martin will adapt production equipment used to manufacture the external tank for the Space Shuttle for a wide range of LNG supply chain applications. In addition to applying its external tank manufacturing expertise, the Lockheed Martin LNG tank manufacturing team will draw on a variety capabilities developed for a wide range of other programs, spanning propellant handling; assembly, test and integration; composites manufacturing; and production facility and tooling design. Lockheed Martin can manufacture tanks in varying sizes and capacities for multiple transportation applications; this includes distribution by land, rail or waterway as well as for land-based LNG storage. All tanks are manufactured to ASME standards for pressurized storage and transportation of cryogenic materials using the quality and safety standards implemented for the shuttle tank program.

“The LNG opportunity is a particularly compelling example of how we can leverage defense- and space-related technology for applications in the private sector,” added Fasano. “Initiatives such as this help exploit the economic advantages of natural gas, while simultaneously helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

With a 37-year history of producing the giant external tank for the space shuttles, and as prime contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft being built at Michoud, Lockheed Martin is familiar with the facility’s capabilities. The agreement ultimately could lower facility costs at Michoud for government and industry users, and free up money for other space exploration goals.

Producing LNGs requires the processes and capabilities of a large tank structure manufacturing site that Michoud is uniquely built to support. Lockheed Martin said it has received initial orders to manufacture cryogenic tanks for fueling LNG-powered vessels. As part of its longer-range business plan, Lockheed Martin will adapt production equipment used to manufacture the external tank for the space shuttle to a wide range of liquefied natural gas supply chain applications.

“Our entry into the LNG tank market is a prime example of how Lockheed Martin is leveraging capabilities and technologies developed for government programs to meet the needs of private sector customers who drive our nation’s economy,” said Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense. “We look forward to a long-term relationship with the state of Louisiana and the greater New Orleans area, and to bringing quality employment opportunities to the community.”

NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility is a multi-tenant campus with 43 acres of advanced manufacturing space under one roof. A number of private companies and government projects take advantage of the facility’s key capabilities, including large-envelope fiber placement equipment, friction stir welding systems, high-speed machining tools, material test labs and manufacturing infrastructure.

Managed and operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Michoud built the Saturn S-1C and Saturn S-1B boosters for the Apollo program, and the large external tank for the shuttle program. It now is building the Orion spacecraft. The facility is being modified to manufacture the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built.

The above story is based on or reprinted from materials provided by NASA.

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