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MICHOUD, La.—Obviously, NASA's novel plans for its Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion capsule require state of the art tools and engineering. But all those strategies, machines, and flight hardware don't appear out of thin air. While much of NASA's work is built on the shoulders of giants so to speak, they also find partners to continuously perform essential research and development.

At the Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans, that means NCAM. The National Center for Advanced Manufacturing is a research-oriented partnership between NASA, the state of Louisiana, and local colleges and universities such as LSU and the University of New Orleans. At its essence, NCAM sits very nearly at the start of the facility's SLS and Orion workflow. After all, before the most advanced tools at Michoud can be utilized and the best engineered materials can be implemented in NASA hardware, someone needs to do the thinking. Since 1999, this has been NCAM's role—ideating, researching, and developing various tools and materials to help NASA continually improve its work (SLS and Orion included).

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