Saturday, June 5, 2010

Week in review (5/30 to 6/5)

Although much of the attention here has been on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at least one item likely caught the attention of workers at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

On Friday the first of a new generation of private rockets took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Falcon 9, a 180-foot rocket, put a model of its Dragon capsule into orbit about 160 miles up. The launch is important to the Obama administration, which has proposed killing the Constellation Program - the program to return astronauts to the Moon and beyond - in favor of moving toward a far greater role for commercial space companies.

SpaceX plans to send a fully operational rocket and capsule into orbit later this summer and one to the space station next year. Both Stennis Space Center and Michoud are involved in the Constellation Program.

Despite fears that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is louder than the planes it's replacing, that's not stopping bases from making a pitch to get the aircraft. Eleven bases in seven states are hoping to convince the Pentagon to choose them to house the plane. The first round of selections is slated for 2011. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is already scheduled to become a joint training center.

Meanwhile, the first F-35 mission rehearsal trainer is now at Eglin's 33rd Fighter Wing. It replicates the cockpit of an F-35 and is a containerized, deployable version of the full mission simulator slated to arrive late this year.

The trainer is one of many new technologies the three U.S. military services and eight partner nations purchasing the F-35 will be using. From their arrival at the 33rd Academic Training Center, students will interact with the latest technology. When the wing reaches full strength in 2014, it will train Air Force, Marine, Navy and international partner operators and maintainers of the F-35.

Advanced Media Design Systems of Pensacola, Fla., was recently awarded the audio visual component of the Joint Strike Fighter Air Force/Navy/Marine Squad Ops at Eglin. AMDS will be renovating a hanger including over 45 rooms with new AV control systems and equipment.

Three units representing each component of the Air Force recently completed the first homeland defense operational readiness inspection. It was held in Mississippi at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, and marked the first time the Air Force validated a unit's wartime capability to defend the homeland by fighting an enemy on U.S. soil. The ORI was May 16 through 23.

Thirty-two physicians and dentists are getting ready to graduate from 81st Medical Group internship and residency training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. It marks Keesler Air Force Base's first internal medicine residency graduating class since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The graduation is June 10 in Keesler Hospital's Don Wylie Auditorium.

Thirty-five units at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be getting name changes. Air Force Materiel Command officials notified commanders last month that headquarters approved converting the command structure from wings, groups and squadrons to directorates, divisions and branches. At Eglin, the 308th Armament Systems Wing will be impacted the most with all of its units undergoing a name change.

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