Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week in review (5/23 to 5/29)

Boeing is seen as the favorite to win the $35 million contract to supply tankers to the Air Force, but you wouldn't guess it from the way it continues to pound rival EADS.

Boeing has been painting EADS as a security risk, saying the company has courted Iran and others at odds with the United States. EADS, for its part, accuses Boeing of trying to make the competition about anything other than the best tanker. Boeing wants lawmakers and the Pentagon to factor national-security into the competition.

Whether that will happen is unclear, but there's a legislative measure now to force the Pentagon to consider the role of illegal subsidies in the contest between Boeing and EADS. It was passed by the House during the week, though it still must be reconciled with a companion defense bill in the Senate.

EADS North America wants to assemble the tankers, based on a modified A330, in Mobile, Ala., at Brookley Industrial Complex. Boeing wants to build the tankers, based on a 767, at its assembly line in Washington.

There's a new associate director at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Ken Human was named to the post late in the week. He'll work for Stennis Director Patrick Scheuermann and Deputy Center Director Rick Gilbrech. Human, who started his NASA career at Stennis in 1978, had been deputy manager of the External Integration Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

- In another personnel-related issue during the week, lawmakers who support the Constellation Program, NASA's bid to return astronauts to the moon and beyond, were outraged the agency reassigned the head of the program. Jeff Hanley was moved to a deputy position at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He has been an outspoken opponent of the administration efforts to shut down the Constellation Program. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in the program.

- Lockheed Martin delivered the first satellite in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency program to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in preparation for a July 30 launch aboard an Atlas V. The multi-satellite AEHF system will provide the U.S. military with global, protected, high capacity and secure communications – a successor to the five-satellite Milstar constellation. Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space and Technology Center personnel at Stennis Space Center, Miss., worked on the core propulsion modules for the AEHF program.

Joint Strike Fighter
Pratt and Whitney delivered the final F135 flight test engine and the first lot of F135 production engines for the F-35. The first lot of production engines consists of four conventional take off and landing engines. All the engines are destined for aircraft that will support the flight training program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

- The U.S. House late in the week adopted its version of a fiscal 2011 defense spending bill that includes $485 million to keep alive an alternate engine for the F-35. This one is built by a joint venture of General Electric and Rolls-Royce. President Obama said he'd veto any legislation to fund the second engine. The Pentagon has said it doesn't want to fund the second powerplant.

Second-engine supports claim that without it, United Technologies Corp., parent of Pratt and Whitney, would have a decades-long monopoly on the projected $100 billion engine market for the more than 3,000 F-35s due to be bought by the United States and partner countries.

- The involvement of the Netherlands in the F-35 program will remain uncertain for several more months. The lower house of the Dutch parliament voted to cancel the purchase of an F-35 initial operational test and evaluation aircraft, but the caretaker government now in place wants the decision left to the new government. General elections are planned for June 9.

Officials during the week cut a ribbon at the new Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Facility at the growing Trent Lott International Airport in Moss Point, Miss. The 3,910 square-foot-facility cost $609,000. Six years ago the air traffic control tower was built and flights increased 50 percent, said Carol Snapp, the airport director. She said once the rescue facility is manned, flights will increase again.

The airport is right next to the Jackson County Aviation Technology Park, which hosts the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center. The facility builds portions of the Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

- Speaking of the Global Hawk, Northrop Grumman opened an office at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., to provide support for the RQ-4s being assigned to the base. The office could eventually employ more than 100 people and attract suppliers and subcontractors.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $6 million contract which will sustain systems engineering support for the production and fielded systems of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range. 308 ARSG/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contacting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded an $18 million contract to provide for additional logistics services and materials for organizational, intermediate and depot-level maintenance of 13 T39N and 6 T-39G aircraft at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

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