NASA’s Rocket Facility in New Orleans Impacted by Tornado
At 11:25 a.m. CST, a tornado impacted NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. All 3,500 employees at the facility have been accounted for, with five sustaining minor injuries.
After the tornado passed, workers smelled gas and were ordered to evacuate. But with additional tornadoes reported in the area, everyone had to shelter in place again. A damage assessment was still underway late Tuesday afternoon.
The facility is currently closed and will remain closed Wednesday, with only emergency personnel on site to continue damage assessments. All NASA employees and tenants who are not involved in emergency operations have been evacuated. Local law enforcement helped ensure employees arrived home safely. All utilities and services to the facility are being secured and efforts are underway to restore power.
At this time, emergency personnel have identified damage to building numbers 103, 350 and additional structures. Building 103, Michoud’s main manufacturing building, has roof damage in several areas. Approximately 200 parked cars were damaged, and there was damage to roads and other areas near Michoud. Hardware for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, and the Orion spacecraft is secure, and no damage from the storm has been identified to hardware or the barge Pegasus docked at Michoud.
The Michoud Assembly Facility plays a critical role in manufacturing rocket parts for NASA, including portions of the Space Launch System, the gigantic rocket the space agency intends to use to propel astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, and whose first flight is scheduled for 2018. The Michoud Facility is also charged with assembling the Orion capsule, a next-generation spacecraft intended to ferry humans to orbit and beyond atop the SLS.