Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week in review (2/14 to 2/20)

Add the Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise in Hancock County, Miss., to the list of organizations that have played a role in helping Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey (CHARTS) system aboard a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft was deployed for five days by Stennis Space Center's Naval Oceanographic Office to get imagery and collect data of ports and harbors in Haiti.

The airborne CHARTS system is designed for rapid coastal hydrographic surveys, and the images provided responders with information about underwater obstructions. When the earthquake struck, the CHARTS detachment was engaged in a hydrographic survey project in the Republic of Nicaragua. They broke off from that assignment to help in the Haiti effort.

The Beechcraft with the CHARTS system is operated by the Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise, located just outside Stennis Space Center at the Stennis International Airport. It's a joint federa operation that supports coastal mapping and charting requirements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A Northrop Grumman team was in North Carolina during the week to enlist the state as an ally in the battle to build Air Force tankers. Boeing and Northrop both want to win a $40 billion contract to build tankers.

Northrop won the contract two years ago, but Boeing successfully had it overturned. Northrop has said it won't submit a bid if the current draft for proposal, which it says favors the smaller Boeing plane, isn't changed.

The Northrop team told state officials a Northrop/EADS win would mean 1,500 jobs in the state. Rep. Pryor Gibson said that if Northrop's numbers are true, he'll write to the Pentagon and White House in support.

The Air Force is bracing for a possible sole-source bid from Boeing. Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy in charge of acquisition for the Air Force, said the Pentagon is following a policy of "don't change anything that potentially favors one competitor over another." The final terms for the competition will be released between Tuesday and the end of the month.

The Northrop and EADS plans to assemble the planes in Mobile, Ala., if they win the contract.

Unmanned systems
The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft surpassed 30,000 combat flying hours and 1,500 combat sorties earlier this month during deployment in Southwest Asia. The Global Hawks are assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and provide a broad spectrum of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection capability to support joint combatant forces.

The 380th AEW Global Hawks reached their 1,500th combat sortie on Feb. 10. The RQ-4 arrived to this deployed location in October 2001 as a test platform and was never intended to fly as many sorties as it has. Global Hawks are built in part at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss.

- Although the Army recently dropped plans to buy Fire Scout unmanned helicopters from Northrop Grumman, the company successfully demonstrated the MQ-8B Fire Scout's resupply capabilities during the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, Ga.

The Fire Scout had two ruggedized containers attached to external pylons. The Fire Scout also used its electro-optical/infrared optical payload during the mission to practice reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition techniques. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.

Joint Strike Fighter
The Air Force is re-evaluating when the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be ready for service. Air Combat Command chief Gen. William Fraser said at a symposium in Orlando, Fla., that the program restructuring announced Feb. 1 will extend the plane's system design and development phase until 2015. That could impact the date the planes are ready for service.

At the same conference, a Lockheed Martin vice president said the U.S. Air Force officially becomes the first F-35 customer later this year when the first of the stealth fighters is delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which is scheduled to become home to the JSF training center. Steve O'Bryan, Lockheed Martin vice president of F-35 Business Development and Customer Engagement, said the first two production F-35s are in final assembly at Lockheed's plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Earlier in the week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told reporters that the F-35 program is likely to breach Nunn-McCurdy limits on per-unit cost growth, which would likely require a formal notice to Congress.

- A third F-35B Joint Strike Fighter arrived during the week at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to begin testing. The short takeoff/vertical landing joins two other F-35B aircraft at the naval base.

The jet, known as BF-3, took off from Fort Worth, Texas Wednesday and arrived at NAS Patuxent River three hours and 10 minutes later. The plane will be used to evaluate vehicle systems and will also focus on weapons testing. It will carry and release most of the weapons the F-35B will use in combat.

No doubt folks from Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are paying close attention to all the maneuvering going on over the Constellation Program, NASA's project to send astronauts back to the moon and beyond. The Obama budget provides no money to continue the program, but forces are gathering to save it.

A group of North Alabama leaders concerned over the proposed changes to Marshall Space Flight Center-managed rocket programs have formed a task force in an effort to restore funding cuts. The "Second to None Initiative" brings together 25 community leaders, led by former Huntsville U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer. Cramer, along with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, promised to work with members of Congress from both political parties to restore the programs.

In Nassau Bay, Texas, Congressman Pete Olson led something of a pep rally during the week, aimed at saving the Constellation program. Olson told those gathered that scuttling Constellation will "possibly be the loss of human space flight forever."

Olson pledged to fight to put Constellation back into the budget. "The president doesn't have the final say on this, Congress does," Olson said at the gathering.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, a former NASA shuttle astronaut, said in an interview with Florida Today that Constellation as it was envisioned is unlikely to be revived, but manned space flight is not dead.

- Lockheed Martin said during the week that it's achieved a key integrated test milestone on the second Space-Based Infrared System geosynchronous orbit satellite. SBIRS is designed to provide early warning of missile launches and support other missions.

The GEO-2 satellite completed its first phase of Baseline Integrated System Test (BIST-1), which establishes a performance baseline for the remainder of the test program. The spacecraft is planned for launch aboard an Atlas V in 2012. Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space & Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., builds subsystems for the SBIRS.

Quarterly reports
Singapore Technologies Engineering said profit fell 6 percent for the year as the firm's aerospace division struggled with the worldwide recession. Profit fell to $314.5 million while revenue grew 4 percent for the year to $3.93 billion. The company is the parent of ST Aerospace Mobile, which employs 1,300 at Mobile's Brookley Field Industrial Complex in Alabama, and VT Halter Marine, which employs 1,100-plus at shipyards in Pascagoula, Moss Point and Escatawpa, Miss.

Hensel Phelps Construction, Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $37.6 million contract for Special Forces complex Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The project is for construction of the primary facilities. U.S. Corps of Engineers, Mobile Regional Contracting Center, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity.

No comments:

Post a Comment