NEW ORLEANS — A month after Space Shuttle Endeavour passed over the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on its final journey to California, NASA officials this week looked to the future as they gave business owners from across the country an update on the Space Launch System, a new mega-rocket designed to transport astronauts to deep space.
The session drew more than 150 people from dozens of businesses, including some already partnering on the project and others interested in working alongside one of its major contractors, like Boeing, said Todd May, the manager of the program.
Hundreds of high-paying jobs are expected to be added when construction on the program reaches its peak, starting next year and leveling off in 2015, May said.
The space agency selected Michoud to build major components of the rocket last year. The heavy-lift rocket’s massive stage core will be built there, and the engines that will power the vehicle beyond low-Earth orbit and into deep space will be test-fired at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Thousands of people worked at Michoud from the early-1970s until the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, peaking at about 7,500 in the 1990s. About 2,500 full-time workers now work at Michoud.
Boeing spokeswoman Patricia Soloveichik said her company expects more than double its workforce on the project, from 120 employees to more than 300 by 2014.
The Space Launch System is designed to transport astronauts to destinations such as asteroids and Mars during the next 15 years.
An unmanned test mission for the rocket is scheduled for 2017.