Futuramic President Mark Jurcak, left, and Vice President John Couch, right, tour their facility near 10 Mile and Hoover roads in Warren with Cmdr. Josh Cassada, a NASA astronaut.

Futuramic President Mark Jurcak, left, and Vice President John Couch, right, tour their facility near 10 Mile and Hoover roads in Warren with Cmdr. Josh Cassada, a NASA astronaut.

Photo by Brian Louwers

‘From Michigan to Mars’

Warren manufacturer hosts NASA, design team to spotlight new Space Launch System

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published May 24, 2019


WARREN — Standing before a crowd of skilled trades workers, aerospace engineers, NASA representatives and even an astronaut, Futuramic Vice President John Couch reflected on the journey that’s taking fruits of the company’s labor “from Michigan to Mars.”

“Who would have imagined that this company would help put boots on the moon, with eyes to Mars, when the founders first started to open the doors in 1955?” Couch said. “It is the realization of an American dream for me, for our employees and for the company.”

Couch said Futuramic is a full-service design, build and installation company specializing in “taking the requirements of our customers and turning them into reality.”

In the case of NASA, its engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and the Boeing Co., one of the prime contractors on a team looking to extend humankind’s reach into deep space, Futuramic is building products and tools critical to the assembly of the Space Launch System’s core stage.

It’s one of 1,100 companies in 44 states working on the rocket’s production and one of 3,000 companies large and small working on a project that also includes grounds systems and the Orion spacecraft, destined to return Americans to the surface of the moon in 2024. In total, the project represents 32,000 jobs across the country.

“When you work in human exploration at NASA, your job is to extend human presence deeper into the solar system. That’s what we go to work to do every day. That’s what you’re enabling every single day,” said Marcia Lindstrom, NASA’s SLS strategic communications manager. “The big news is we’re going forward to the moon. We’re doing it in 2020 and we’re going to stay. We’ll land human footprints on the south pole of the moon in 2024, and we’ve got just the rocket to do that.”

Lindstrom said the effort is part of a phased approach to extend our reach from low Earth orbit at the International Space Station, back to a lunar orbit and landing, and eventually to Mars.  

Billed by NASA as “America’s rocket for deep space exploration,” the SLS can generate 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That’s 15 percent more power than the rocket that took Americans to the moon in July 1969, 50 years ago this summer.

The SLS set for deployment with Artemis 1, the system’s first uncrewed mission scheduled for 2020, stands 322 feet tall and weighs 5.7 million pounds. It includes a configuration of four RS-25 engines and two solid rocket boosters that each burn 1,385,000 pounds of solid propellant in their two minutes and 30 seconds of launch operation.

The core stage, which includes flight control avionics, is being built by Boeing at Michoud. The project has been fast tracked, and because the core stage was originally designed for vertical construction, a problem arose when facility availability required it to be assembled horizontally.

Futuramic helped solve that problem by creating a 60,000-pound tool.

Craig Williams, Boeing’s SLS Core Stage Integrated Product Team director, called Futuramic’s work “a real heroic effort.” He said the company has made or will make more than 10 additional tools and parts for the program.

“We started this venture in 2009. You guys have touched every part of this rocket in one way or another, most notably the last 14-16 months, with this fast-tracked tooling we’ve asked you to develop,” Williams said. “You guys were there every step of the way. I want to applaud you. You did fantastic.”

Cmdr. Josh Cassada, a NASA astronaut scheduled for the second crewed mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft within the next 18 months, followed by a six-month stint on the International Space Station, thanked the workers at Futuramic.

“I’m hearing conversations about the next generation of space flight moving early. That just doesn’t happen,” Cassada said. “It is a testament to the work you’re doing here to allow us to not only get the mission done, but to get it done safely.”

Cassada presented a “Silver Snoopy Award” to Futuramic designer Matt Ososky, of St. Clair Township, for his longtime contributions to “outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety and mission success.” The silver Snoopy lapel pins are always presented by an astronaut and have flown in space.

Futuramic President Mark Jurcak said the company has 280 employees who collectively provide engineering, fabrication, machining, certification and installation services for the aerospace, aircraft, military/defense and automotive industries.

“A little bit of everything,” Jurcak said. “We’re toolmakers here. A toolmaker can build just about anything.”

Jurcak said the big push to send high school graduates to college left a huge gap in the number of skilled workers.  

“We lost two generations of skilled trades,” Jurcak said.

That’s finally starting to change.

“There are craftsmen out there and there is a place for them,” Jurcak said. “There’s still jobs and a high demand for them.”

For much more on NASA’s Space Launch System, visit www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/index.html.