Saturday, July 16, 2011

Week in review (7/10 to 7/16)

The arrival of the first F-35 Lightning at Eglin Air Force Base, a test of the new generation J-2X rocket engine at Stennis Space Center and more money for Pensacola's National Flight Academy were among the news items during the week in the Gulf Coast aerospace region.

Late in the week, the first F-35 Lightning II that will be used by the Integrated Training Center landed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after a 90-minute flight from Fort Worth, Texas. The plane, known as AF-9, is a conventional takeoff and landing version of the fifth generation fighter built by Lockheed Martin and its industry partners.

The plane is one of six that will be assigned to the base in coming months. Eventually, Eglin will have 59 of the F-35s. They'll be used by the 33rd Fighter Wing to train pilots and maintainers from all branches of the military, as well as allied nations.

The Eglin plane is the third production model delivered to the Air Force. The first two are assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Even before the arrival of the new plane, the commander of the 96th Air Base Wing at Eglin recently reflected on his first year heading up the wing that provides support for the base. "Eglin has an extremely bright future," said Col. Sal Nodjomian, who has been at the helm during a period of growth for the base. "We will continue to integrate research, developmental and operational test, training and many other significant mission sets at Eglin."

While on the topic of Eglin, the base was named Department of Defense Installation of the Year by the Association of Defense Communities. According to ADC, Eglin has forged partnerships with local governments and nonprofits to protect natural resources, enhance wildlife corridors and expand opportunities for biodiversity, while at the same time preserving its mission.

Eglin is home to 19 federal and 95 state listed, rare or local endemic species, and officials place a high priority on conserving natural resources. The base occupies much of the Florida panhandle, controlling 120,000 square miles of airspace over the Florida Gulf and providing a unique atmosphere for threatened and endangered species. The Defense Community Awards lunch is at the ADC 2011 Annual Conference in Norfolk on July 19.

- Air Force simulation experts at Eglin Air Force Base are reaching out to industry to find companies able to develop simulations to help the Air Force evaluate concepts for new weapons. The Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate at Eglin issued a sources-sought notice Tuesday for the Technology Research for Integrated Guidance Simulation (TRIGS) program.

The Air Force expects to negotiate one five-year indefinite delivery indefinite quantity research contract for the TRIGS weapons simulation program worth about $45 million.

- Brig. Gen. Leonard Patrick, current commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, will become the new leader of the 2nd Air Force during a change of command July 21 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Patrick replaces Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, who is going to the Pentagon to direct the Sexual Assault and Response Office for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

NASA conducted a combined chill test and 1.9-second ignition test Thursday of the next-generation J-2X rocket engine that could help carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit to deep space. The test at the A-2 Test Stand was the first in a series that will be conducted over the next several months on the J-2X, which is being developed by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne. Collected data will verify the engine functions as designed.

The J-2X uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel, which can be mixed to generate 294,000 pounds of thrust to lift a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit or 242,000 pounds of thrust to power a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit into deep space. The engine is designed to start and restart in space.

- StenniSphere, the visitor center at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, will delay opening on July 20 due to a special event. The visitor center will open at noon that day. StenniSphere is open to the public 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and is closed on major holidays.

The University of Florida pledged $125,000 to the National Flight Academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., an amount matched by an anonymous Florida Gator booster. The $250,000 will be used for scholarships and tuition to the academy, which is expected to open to students in May 2012.

The academy, an educational program of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, will offer week-long sessions to students in seventh through 12th grades. Students will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

The National Flight Academy is one of several learning centers that are being developed in the Gulf Coast region. Near the Louisiana and Mississippi state line, work is continuing on the Infinity Science Center, which will highlight science and technology activities at NASA's nearby Stennis Space Center, Miss., and in Mobile, Ala., work is continuing on the GulfQuest center, which will highlight maritime activities.

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $9.1 million contract modification for procurement of 4 Griffin Block II A telemetry rounds, part number 2292000-25, and 74 Griffin Block II A all up rounds to include shipping, engineering services, and proposal development costs. AAC/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. is the contracting activity.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: The next Freedom-class littoral combat ship will be named the USS Little Rock. The monohull Little Rock will be 378 feet long and built in Marinette, Wis., by a Lockheed Martin team. The other class of LCS, the Independence class, is an aluminum trimaran built in Mobile, Ala., by Austal USA. … Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $98.6 million modification to previously awarded contract for advance procurement of long-lead-time materials in support of LPD 27, the 11th ship of the LPD class. Work will be done in Pascagoula and is expected to be completed by January 2012. … Northrop Grumman said it would save the government some $600 million by divesting its shipbuilding operation and closing the Avondale, La., shipyard. But the Pentagon’s audit agency concluded it can’t verify the claim. The spinoff company, Huntington Ingalls, is now in operation, but the yard in Avondale won’t be closing until 2013. … The Navy put a rear admiral in charge of a new office overseeing the entire littoral combat ship program, a change from the previous division between building the vessels and the mission modules.
Advanced materials: Gulf Coast-area science and math teachers during the week learned new lessons and recharged their professional enthusiasm at Office of Naval Research-funded five-day summer camps that wrapped up July 15 at John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss. The program trained middle and high school teachers in physics and materials science, electronic engineering, chemistry and polymer science.