Saturday, May 28, 2011

Week in review (5/22 to 5/28)

So, you thought the Orion crew capsule from the canceled Constellation Program was dead? Well, not exactly. NASA said last week that a new spacecraft to take humans into deep space will be based on designs for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. And it will be built by Lockheed Martin, which also built Orion.

Orion, originally designed to take astronauts back to the moon, is a surviving component of the Constellation manned space exploration program canceled by President Barack Obama last year. The new spacecraft is called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and will carry four astronauts for 21-day missions and be able to land in the Pacific. NASA has spent some $5 billion on Orion since it awarded Lockheed Martin the prime contract in September 2006. NASA still needs to finalize plans for a heavy lift vehicle.

What this may mean for the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans may be a bit early to tell. Lockheed Martin built the Orion ground test article at Michoud, and it's likely it would be involved in any variation of the crew vehicle.

Blue Angels
The commander of the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team, Navy Cmdr. Dave Koss, voluntarily stepped down from the team after some of its jets flew at a lower altitude than allowed at a Virginia air show last weekend. The team is on indefinite stand-down. Koss is being replaced by Navy Capt. Greg McWherter, who commanded the team before Koss took over in November 2010.

Future JSF maintainers Air Force maintainers are getting hands-on experience with the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Seven airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., were at the Navy station for 75 days to gain first-hand experience maintaining the F-35B and F-35C variants, while those aircraft continue flight test and evaluation.

They are the second group from the Wing to visit the F-35 test facility at Pax River. The crew arrived April 19 and another group is expected to follow this summer. Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver the F-35A aircraft AF-8 to Eglin later this year.

Northwest Florida Regional Airport had the busiest month in its 54-year history in April. The airport at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., had 96,788 passengers, up 43 percent from April 2010. Last month's figure also outpaced the airport’s previous high set in July 2001 by more than 13 percent. Greg Donovan, the airport director, said Vision Airlines, which expanded its service to 15 new destinations in late March and early April, was the overwhelming reason.

- Regent Aerospace, which overhauls aircraft seats and interiors, is temporarily suspending operations at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala., because it has yet to obtain a required Federal Aviation Administration approval. Mike Lilley, vice president of California-based Regent, said seats now being worked on will be taken back to the firm's Indianapolis facility, and that the 20 Mobile workers will also be relocated there temporarily. Regent hopes to get the approval from the FAA and reopen in Mobile within two weeks.

Raytheon Missile Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded an $83 million contract modification for the Miniature Air Launched Decoy low rate initial production lot four. AAC/EBJM, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Textron Systems Corp., Wilmington, Mass., was awarded a $9.9 million contract modification for the Sensor Fuzed Weapon India Foreign Military Sales case integration phase one eight-month effort. AAC/EBJI, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Aerojet General Corp. of Rancho Cordova, Calif., was awarded a $31.8 million contract modification for the procurement of warhead cases and internal components to support the Precision Lethality MK82 Quick Reaction Capability program. The contracting activity is AAC/EBSK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: The William P. Lawrence arrived in Mobile on Friday, where the crew will remain until the formal commissioning ceremony on June 4. After the commissioning, the ship, built in Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding, will head for its home port in San Diego. … General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $744 million modification to previously awarded contract for the procurement of the detail design and construction of two mobile landing platform ships. Some of the work will be done in Mobile, Ala., and Belle Chasse, La. … VT Halter Marine won a contract to build a 112-foot offshore articulated tug barge for New York-based Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. The dollar figure was not disclosed. Construction is set to begin next month at the Moss Point and Escatawpa yards, both in Mississippi. … A new ship designed to carry a billion-dollar ballistic missile tracking radar failed its acceptance trials earlier this month and will need repairs before it can enter service. The Howard O. Lorenzen, built by VT Halter Marine at Moss Point, Miss., will be repaired at Kiewit Offshore Services in Corpus Christi, Texas. … As the Avondale shipyard moves toward closing in 2013, researchers from several universities are teaming to study the 73-year-old facility's economic and cultural contributions to the region.

Geospatial: NASA’s Applied Science and Technology Project Office at the John C. Stennis Space Center has provided satellite images to the Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana showing large amounts of sediment throughout coastal Louisiana as a result of flooding on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Geological Survey and NASA are providing satellite imagery to help in flood response efforts.