Saturday, March 26, 2011

Week in review (3/20 to 3/26)

EADS may have lost the $35 billion Air Force tanker competition to Boeing, but it's continuing its bid to increase its footprint in the United States, the world's largest aerospace market.

The company said during the week that it's in talks to buy Vector Aerospace, a Canadian company that repairs and maintains civil and military helicopters. Vector Aerospace has an operation at the South Alabama Regional Airport in Andalusia, Ala., which opened in 2008.

EADS, which would have built an assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., had it won the Air Force tanker project, has a helicopter production facility in Columbus, Miss., and two operations in Mobile, including an engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex.

Joint Strike Fighter
Aviators of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., completed four sorties recently in F-16 Fighting Falcons to ensure readiness and efficiency in the transition to the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-16s from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., were brought to the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin because of its flying characteristics are similar to the F-35. The Marine variant of JSF, the F-35B, contains a short take-off and vertical landing engine.

The STOVL variant will replace the Marine Corps inventory of F/A-18s and AV-8s. The F-35B will be the world's first operational supersonic STOVL aircraft. Eglin Air Force Base is home of the JSF training center.

- Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc., a major international F-35 supplier to Northrop Grumman, has delivered its first production air inlet duct for the jet. The all-composite duct, a major structural element of the F-35's center fuselage, will support Northrop Grumman's production of F-35 center fuselages for conventional takeoff and landing variants at its aerospace production facility in Palmdale, Calif.

TAI produced the air inlet duct at its composites manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey, as part of a five-year, $28.4 million contract awarded to the company in September 2009 by Northrop Grumman, a principal subcontractor of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team.

- The Defense Department during the week issued a stop work order on the F-136 engine being developed by General Electric and Rolls-Royce for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The administration and DoD oppose the extra engine as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The stop work order will remain in place pending final resolution of the program's future, for a period not to exceed 90 days, unless extended by agreement of the government and the contractor. The F-35's primary engine is the Pratt & Whitney F135. GE, however, plans to continue self-funded work on the engine.

Assembly of the first J-2X is continuing at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Miss. Managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the J-2X engine will power the upper-stage of a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

Fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the J-2X engine will generate 294,000 pounds of thrust to propel a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit to the moon, an asteroid, or other celestial destination.

During the week, Stennis Space Center's A-2 test stand was certified ready to support J-2X development testing. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. is the prime contractor for the design and manufacture of the J-2X. Hot fire testing of the engine is targeted for later this summer at Stennis.

- Last weekend at NASA’s Stennis Space Center an Aerojet AJ26 flight engine was tested on the E-1 Test stand. The engine will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle. The test was done by a team of Orbital, Aerojet, and Stennis engineers.

The test of the AJ26 engine supports Orbital Sciences' effort to demonstrate its commercial cargo transportation system in preparation for future International Space Station cargo resupply missions. Once test data has been reviewed and verified, the engine will be sent to the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for integration with the Taurus II rocket's first-stage core. Orbital is scheduled to carry out the first of eight cargo missions to the space station in early 2012.

Vision Airlines during the week announced new destinations from Fort Walton Beach, Fla. In December the airline launched direct flights from Northwest Florida Regional Airport to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Miami. On Friday it expanded service to 10 additional destinations, with five more to start during the coming week. Service has begun to Atlanta, Knoxville, Tenn., Greenville, S.C., and Huntsville, Ala. Service to Savannah, Ga., Baton Rouge, La., and Louisville, Ky., started Saturday.

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $7.3 million contract for logistics support for the C-12 aircraft for Pacific Air Force, Air Force Material Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Defense Security Corporation Agency. Work will be performed at L3 Communications Vertex Aerospace in Madison.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was at Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala., Friday to announce the names to two littoral combat ships being built by that company. LCS 6 will be named Jackson and LCS 8 will be named Montgomery. … A 684-foot amphibious transport dock ship, Arlington, was slated to be christened Saturday at a ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Pascagoula yard. … Swiftships Shipbuilders LLC, Morgan City, La., was awarded a $42.1 million modification to previously awarded contract for the detail design and construction of three 35-meter patrol boats. Eight percent of the work will be done in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Marine science: Federal officials are taking possession of samples from the 71 dolphins found dead on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts this year. The samples have been stored at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., since mid-January when the animals started dying in high numbers. The concern from the start has been whether it has anything to do with last year’s BP oil spill. … Much of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 never made it to the surface and instead become suspended in the water column, suggests research presented at a scientific conference in Mobile, Ala.