Boeing’s Washington Workers Return; Alabama Workers Never Left

Prior to the COVID-19 closure, the SLS engine section, intertank, liquid oxygen tank, liquid hydrogen tank and forward skirt structures had all been built and welded at the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.

Thousands of Boeing commercial aircraft employees are heading back to work this week in Washington state, while Boeing workers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama continue work on long-range space programs.

The aerospace company announced April 16 that its workers would be returning the following week after a shutdown because of the virus crisis.

Boeing’s work for NASA in Mississippi adjusted its factory, production operations and supply chains for building core stages 2 through 12 for the Space Launch System.

Boeing and NASA were putting the first SLS core stage through a series of green run tests at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi when operations were temporarily halted due to the virus concerns.

The core stage includes the largest rocket propellant tanks in existence, new computers and new flight software. It will be used on the uncrewed Artemis I mission.

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At the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, all elements of the core stage for the crewed Artemis II mission had been built and work on the third core stage was also underway. The third core stage would be used on the Artemis III mission, slated for 2024. However, Covid-19 has also temporarily closed that facility.

In Alabama, Boeing’s team has continued, without interruption, its work designing a bigger SLS variant with a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage to carry super-heavy cargo on missions to the moon and deep space, starting with the Artemis IV mission.

“The evolvable nature of the rocket will allow us to onboard new advances in materials and production technologies as we move forward to the Moon and on to Mars,” said John Shannon, Boeing vice president and Space Launch System program manager, in 2019 when Boeing received the contract to produce 10 SLS core stages and up to eight exploration upper stages in support of the Artemis missions.

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