Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week in review (8/21 to 8/27)

Stennis Space Center, Miss., has been a big economic engine for the region for years. The federal facility is home to NASA's rocket testing facilities and 30 other agencies, including the Navy and its oceanography operations. SSC had a direct global economic impact in 2010 of $875 million. In a 50-mile radius the impact was $616 million.

Not bad at all. But in the past couple of years the 14,000 acre site, surrounded by a 124,000 acre buffer zone, seems to be gearing up to become even more of a powerhouse in the region. In October 2009, 3,900 acres of NASA land at Stennis Space Center received "Project Ready" certification by Mississippi Power.

The Project Ready program highlights areas that are near utilities and ready for development. At the time, SSC officials pointed out that there's even more acreage, but that the 3,900 acres are all close to roads and utilities and it would be well-suited for aerospace companies and others that are either national in scope or somehow involved in space activities.

Then last week NASA got more acreage along with more building space. The former Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant, initially designed to make munitions, was formally turned over by the Army to NASA. That provides an additional 1.6 million square feet to what NASA already controls at SSC. The increase is considerable – about 33 percent more.

The Army plant hasn't made munitions since 1990 and was deactivated in 1992. About half the space is already occupied by a dozen employers, including Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the Government Printing Office, Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security's National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage.

One of the reasons this is so significant is because NASA is pushing much of its near-Earth work to commercial companies so it can concentrate on missions into deep space. The thinking is SSC is a great location for companies interested in either of those activities.

Now consider this: About 40 miles away from SSC is NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in east New Orleans. There's a lot of available space at that facility, which is no longer making external tanks for the Space Shuttle program, and there's also some 800 acres NASA would like to turn into an advanced manufacturing park. Combined the Stennis-Michoud area appears to have a lot of potential.

For some background on the Gulf Coast's space activities, click here.

The Air Force officially rolled out the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter during a ceremony late in the week at the 58th Fighter Squadron Hanger at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. According to press reports, hundreds of people attended the event, hosted by Gen. Edward Rice, Air Education and Training Command commander.

Eglin is home of the F-35 training center, where pilots and maintainers from the Air Force, Navy, Marines and foreign nations will train with three variants of the fighter. Florida Sen. Don Gaetz said the F-35 will have a big impact on Northwest Florida.

- The production version of the F-35 has been cleared to fly, according to Lockheed Martin. As pointed out in a story in the Air Force Times, the entire JSF fleet was grounded Aug. 2 after one jet suffered a malfunction of the integrated power package. A dozen instrumented test aircraft were OKd to fly Aug. 18, and now a half-dozen production jets, including two at Eglin, can take to the air.

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin signed a five-year deal to further sensors technology. The cooperative research and development agreement signed Friday will assess the viability of Lockheed's cooled tri-mode seeker for integration into Air Force weapon platforms. The work will be done with the Air Force Research Lab's Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., according to the Dayton Business Journal.

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which opened in May 2010, hopes a $475,000 federal grant will help it plan for future expansion, according to the Panama City News Herald. The Transportation Department grant will be used to hire a company to develop short- and long-term forecasts for future passenger traffic. Last month the airport, north of Panama City, Fla., marked the million-passenger milestone.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: The University of New Orleans received $306,216 from the Department of Defense to buy equipment that features a welding technique that has been used on the space shuttle's external tank. The friction stir welding equipment will be used on ships, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Marine science: The Mobile Press-Register reported during the week that oil was found floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the site of last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Later in the week BP and the U.S. Coast Guard's Gulf Coast Incident Management Team conducted a visual inspection of the well, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and said there is no release of oil occurring at the well. … A year ago, at the height of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, much of the seafloor off the Alabama coast was dead. But things look much different now. Several times this spring the Mobile Press-Register returned to three natural gas platforms visited during the summer of 2010. Instead of swimming through a dead sea and finding oxygen levels far below the threshold required to support marine animals, there was abundant life.
Advanced materials: Three University of Southern Mississippi professors and a team of 10 students have come up with an experimental substance to help clean up an oil spill, according to the Hattiesburg American. The substance is renewable and non-toxic and made from plants. The two key ingredients are cellulose and soy lecithin.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week in review (8/14 to 8/20)

The Pentagon and the Federal Aviation Administration plan to carve out between four and 10 "bubbles" in civilian airspace to test unmanned aerial systems. That's the word from Steve Pennington, executive director of the Defense Policy Board on Federal Aviation. (Story)

The test bubbles will provide the Department of Defense and the FAA with space to show that unmanned systems can fly in heavily-traveled commercial airspace in all conditions. That may be particularly important in light of the incident during the week when a 12-foot long Shadow drone with a 20-foot wingspan and a C-130 collided in Afghanistan.

The sites will not be co-located with existing DoD sites that have been cleared to fly unmanned systems in the United States, but the new airspace sites will likely butt up against those DoD-owned sites. DoD will begin preliminary site selection by the end of 2012, Pennington said.

It appears to me that this region is perfect for one of the sites, or perhaps more. South Mississippi has two locations cleared for unmanned flights. One is at Stennis Space Center near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line, and the other is in and around Moss Point, not far from the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

Unmanned systems also fly at Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida, which also has been a test site for cruise missiles for years. Considering the Gulf Coast also has ranges in the Gulf of Mexico, it almost appears to be a no-brainer that this region will be considered. And if the idea is to show that the drones can fly in heavily-traveled commercial airspace, this region fits the bill. There are commercial airports in New Orleans, Gulfport, Miss., Mobile, Ala., and Florida’s Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City. The region also has plenty of military flights.

We'll let you know how this search develops.

- While on the topic of unmanned systems, the Navy's MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, which is built in part in Moss Point,, Miss., may soon head to sea with air-to-surface missiles. The drone, which recently finished its second deployment, will start carrying weapons in addition to its array of sensors used for surveillance missions. (Story)

And that seems to be increasingly important. A Fire Scout was shot down over Libya during a deployment, and had it been armed it might have been able to respond to a perceived threat. It will also give ground operators a change to engage targets of opportunity that might otherwise get away.

The Navy picked a laser-guided 70mm rocket, BAE Systems' Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, as the initial weapon because it has existing safety approval for deployment on ships. But Northrop Grumman will conduct a demonstration of Raytheon's Griffin, a 35-pount tube launched laser-guided mini-missile, later this month.

This wouldn't be a first for the Fire Scount. The Navy test-fired an armed version in 2005.

- Also during the week, the Pentagon approved the requirement for an "endurance upgrade" to the Fire Scout. That means the Navy likes Northrop Grumman's idea of using the proven Fire Scout systems on a larger airframe, in this case the Bell 407. The increased payload and range is designed to support special operations forces. (Story)

The program office evaluated the Boeing A160T Hummingbird and Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max unmanned helicopters, but recommended using the Bell 407 airframe, Capt. Patrick Smith, the Navy's Fire Scout program manager, said at the AUVSI International show in Washington.

The program office’s recommendation has yet to be endorsed by Navy leadership, but Northrop and Bell are already jointly developing an unmanned version of the civil Bell 407 light turbine helicopter, called the Fire-X, which first flew in December.

The MQ-8C will be developed within 24 months, with deployment in 2014. Plans to acquire 28 air vehicles over three years.

- Speaking of drones and Eglin, I mentioned above that cruise missiles have been tested in this region for years. Well on July 20 a Tomahawk was fired from the USS Normandy off the coast of south Florida, navigated through the Gulf of Mexico and hit a target at the Eglin Air Force Base weapons range. It marked the 500 test flights for the Tomahawk. (Story)

The cruise missile has been in service for more than 30 years, but Navy officials point out that testing and training of personnel is still essential. It can be launched from over 140 Navy ships and submarines and has been used in every major combat operation since Desert Storm in 1991. The 2,000th combat missile was recently launched against Libyan air defense systems.

The F-35 test fleet has been cleared for flight, but the Air Force's production aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are still grounded, the Pentagon said during the week.

An Air Force safety board is continuing its investigation of the failure of the AF-4’s Integrated Power Package on Aug. 2, which led to the grounding of the fleet of 20 aircraft. Ground operations of the test fleet resumed Aug. 10.

Command change
Maj. Gen. Kenneth A. Merchant assumed command of the Air Armament Center from Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis Friday. Merchant's previous assignment was director at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he was director of Logistics, Headquarters, Air Mobility Command. Davis will assume command of the Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Sept. 1, the same day he's promoted to lieutenant general. Also Friday, Col. David A. Harris, Vice Commander, Air Armament Center, pinned on the rank of brigadier general.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards announced its first contract to build a new ship from scratch at its facility in Mobile, Ala. Weeks Marine Inc. hired BAE to build a 356-foot-long dredging vessel. The contract is worth $85 million. … The Justice Department has accused Bollinger Shipyards Inc. of Lockport, La., of falsifying data that led the Coast Guard to contract with the firm to lengthen eight deepwater cutters, all of which turned out "unseaworthy and unusable." The suit seeks unspecified damages. Bollinger said the company has a spotless record for honest and fair dealings. … Local 441 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after a failed attempt earlier this month to organize Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. Workers vote 613-367 against unionizing. … Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded a $7 million option exercise modification to a previously awarded contract for management and engineering services to maintain and modify as necessary the design of DDG 51-class combat system compartments and topside arrangements, in support of the program executive officer Integrated Warfare Systems. Twenty-two percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss. … BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a steel profile processing system. BAE will use the money for an automated system for cutting and welding stiffening profiles to steel plates on ships. … Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded an $11 million modification to previously awarded contract for research, development, test, and technical services for the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer. Eighty percent of the work will be done in Pascagoula, Miss., and 20 percent in Gulfport, Miss.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Week in review (8/7 to 8/13)

An upcoming aerospace summit, a visit by the Atlantis crew to two NASA facilities, the role of Eglin’s 20th Space Control Squadron in the shuttle program, more signs of growth in the unmanned aerial systems field and word that Rolls-Royce is looking to expand its engine testing footprint in the United States all highlighted the Gulf Coast region's aerospace news during the week.

Aerospace summit
If you follow aerospace activities in the Gulf Coast region - and my guess is you do since you read this column - you'll be interested in a summit being held next month in Northwest Florida. The future of aerospace and aviation in the region and nation will be the focus of the Aerospace Alliance Summit, Sept. 15-16 at Sandestin Golf and Beach and Resort.

The summit is hosted by the Aerospace Alliance, a partnership of the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida's Great Northwest. The group's goal is to market the Southeast region of the United States as a world-class aerospace and aviation corridor.

The Aerospace Alliance was formed in 2009 at the height of the battle between Boeing and EADS over a contract to build aerial tankers for the Air Force. The multi-state group made its mark early on, hosting some attention-grabbing galas at the Paris and Farnborough international air shows. (Invitation/registration)

Unmanned systems
The Navy during the week confirmed it's joining with the Army to buy dozens of a new class of medium-sized, unmanned helicopter that could be in service within five years, according to Flightglobal, citing an acquisition document. The agreement combines requirements for the Navy's medium-range maritime unmanned aircraft system and the Army's medium-range multi-purpose vertical take-off and landing system.

The Navy is already operating the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, but both services are looking for a larger, more capable helicopter. Boeing is expected to offer its A160 Hummingbird and Northrop Grumman has proposed the MQ-8C Fire-X, which combines the Fire Scout operating system and a Bell 407 airframe. (Story) The Fire Scout is built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Unmanned Systems Center. That facility could eventually play a role as well in the Fire-X project.

- Also during the week, the Navy confirmed plans to retire the special mission versions of the Lockheed P-3 by 2020 and replace them with an all-unmanned fleet. Flightglobal reports that in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month, incoming chief of naval operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said the Navy's EP-3 Aries and special projects aircraft will be retired in 2019 and 2020.

They'll be replaced by an $8 billion investment over the next five years in a family of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, Greenert said. Those investments include $1.1 billion in the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, $3.9 billion in the Northrop RQ-4N Global Hawk broad area maritime surveillance aircraft, $2.5 billion in the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program and $1.1 billion in the medium-range maritime unmanned aircraft system.

The Navy believes its intelligence-collecting capabilities will be improved by transitioning to a larger fleet of long-endurance, unmanned aircraft, Greenert said. (Story)

This can't help but be good news for Moss Point, Miss. In addition to the Fire Scout, portions of the Global Hawk are also built there at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center. It's been apparent for some time now that growth is in the cards.

According to defense analysts and consulting firm Teal Group, the business of unmanned aerial vehicles will rise from $5.9 billion to more than $13 billion over the next 10 years, despite declining defense budgets. Companies in the United States will account for 77 percent of the research and development of UAV technologies in the next decade.

To learn more about the Gulf Coast's unmanned systems activities, click here.

Crew members from the final mission of space shuttle Atlantis visited NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans during the week to thank employees at both facilities and their families for their part in the success of the mission.

At SSC, hundreds crowded the auditorium of StenniSphere to hear pilot Doug Hurley, mission commander Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Waldheim share their appreciation and their experiences in space.

"Of all the NASA centers that are involved in human space flight, I think Stennis' future is probably the most clear at this point," said Ferguson. Stennis tested all the space shuttle main engines, and continues to test rocket engines for commercial companies.

"The space shuttle (main engines) that you've tested and operated here for probably at least 35 years was really one of the success stories," said Hurley.

Atlantis, launched on its maiden mission in October 1985, completed its final flight on July 21, marking the end of NASA's shuttle program. During its 26 years in service, Atlantis flew 33 missions and logged more than 131 million miles in space. Atlantis and sister crafts Discovery and Endeavour now are being prepared for permanent display at selected sites.

- When you think of space and the Gulf Coast, you think of Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans. But during the week a nod of recognition went out to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.’s, 20th Space Control Squadron and the other units that are part of Peterson Air Force Base’s 21st Space Wing in Colorado.

A story written by the public affairs office at the 21st discussed the critical role of the organization in ensuring the safety and success of the shuttle program. In addition to the Eglin-based 20th, the other units involved were the 6th Space Warning Squadron at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., and the 7th SWS at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. They tracked more than 22,000 near-earth and deep space objects, shuttle missions and the International Space Station.

From launch to landing these teams are tracking the shuttle and any objects that could potentially collide with the shuttle. "In 2009, observations collected by the 20th SPCS led NASA to evacuate astronauts from the International Space Station into the Russian Soyuz manned spacecraft after identifying objects with a close trajectory to the space station," said Capt. Aaron Lynch, 20th SPCS Operations Flight commander.

Most of the space debris are less than one millimeter in diameter and cause no damage, but the shuttle occasionally had to dodge objects if it was determined there was a one in 10,000 chance of a collision.

The shuttles are back on earth now, but the mission of the 6th SWS, 7th SWS and 20th SPCS continues.

"We continue to perform the space surveillance mission since there are still many objects up there (that) we want our functioning satellites to be able to avoid," said Capt. Chris Leininger, 7th SWS Operations Support Flight commander.

Additionally, the United States will continue to send astronauts to space using the Russian Soyuz capsule and the 6th SWS, 7th SWS and 20th SPCS will continue to closely monitor manned missions to the International Space Station. (Story)

To learn more about the Gulf Coast’s space activities, click here.

Rolls-Royce Group is studying locations in the United States and Germany for new engine test sites, the Telegraph reported during the week. The company told workers in Derby, England, where it employs 11,000, that it was considering sites outside of the United Kingdom.

Derby builds and tests the Trent XWB, which will go in the new Airbus A350. That program will continue in Derby, but the company says it's looking at new locations to help fulfill orders worth about $98 billion. Rolls-Royce could open test sites either in the United States or Germany or both, the Telegraph reported.

Rolls-Royce currently tests jet engines at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Construction will resume at the air traffic control tower at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi on Monday. Work on the $12 million project in Gulfport was halted last month when Congress failed to provide funding for infrastructure projects. Congress has since approved a budget and the work in Gulfport, and other sites nationwide, can now proceed.

- Vision Airlines will discontinue service from Northwest Florida Regional Airport at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to selected destinations during the fall and winter. The reduced schedule will start Aug. 19, when the airline cuts service to Lafayette and Shreveport, La., Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C. Vision made the announcement as it released its fall and winter flight schedule.

Among the geekiest
The Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin metro area in Northwest Florida is ranked 20 on Forbes list of America’s Geekiest Cities. That means it has a lot of people with degrees in science and engineering-related fields. Of the workforce in the Fort Walton Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area, 8.8 percent or some 7,200 workers are employed in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics field. Much of that is due to Eglin Air Force Base, which acts as a magnet for technology-oriented defense contractors.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $535.3 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead parts and components required for the manufacture of 38 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: Construction on a $144 million shipping vessel for Honolulu-based Pasha Hawaii began during the week with the cutting of the first piece of steel at VT Halter Marine’s shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship will provide weekly service between the West Coast and Hawaii. … Huntington Ingalls Industries' third U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter, Stratton (WMSL 752), returned to Pascagoula, Miss., after successfully completing two days of acceptance sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. The 418-foot NSC is the flagship of the Coast Guard's cutter fleet. Stratton is scheduled for delivery to the Coast Guard on Sept. 2.
Marine science: The Marine Technology Society and Mississippi Enterprise for Technology are hosting the Oceans in Action Workshop Aug. 22 and 23 at the Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi, Miss. The workshop focuses on how marine technology is applied to real-world issues.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Week in review (7/31 to 8/6)

Northwest Florida's Hurlburt Field is on its way to getting a squadron that will operate Predator unmanned aircraft. Late in the week the Air Force announced that Hurlburt is the preferred site for the Air Force Reserve Command MQ-1 remote split-operations squadron. If the environmental assessment goes well, the decision will bring 140 personnel and associated equipment to the base.

The Air Force announced in May 2011 that the Eglin Complex was the candidate location for the squadron. The Eglin complex includes Eglin Air Force Base itself, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field, Camp Rudder and Choctaw Field.

Site survey teams evaluated the base for feasibility, timing, cost and planning purposes to meet initial operational capability requirements. Hurlburt, home of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, ended up being the preferred location within the complex.

But don’t bother looking around for a Predator, an unmanned system designed to provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and precision-strike capability. Predator flight operations are split between launch and recovery element aircrews overseas and mission-control element crews based in the United States.

LRE crews launch and recover the aircraft within the area of responsibility, while MCE crews operate the aircraft via satellite data links from locations within the United States.

- In another unmanned aerial system-related item during the week, the USS Halyburton and its Fire Scout unmanned helicopters returned to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., after a seven-month deployment.

The ship and its crew conducted numerous counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in support of Operation Unified Protector, employing the MQ-8B Fire Scouts. MQ-8B operators set records for maximum altitude, range, and endurance, with 438 hours flown by Fire Scout.

One of the drones was lost over Libya in June and later replaced. The Libyan government claimed its forces downed the remotely operated vehicle, and late in the week the Pentagon said it appeared to be enemy action that brought down the Fire Scout.

Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center.

Flight and ground operations for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were suspended after the secondary power system of F-35A AF-4, an Air Force variant test aircraft, failed on Aug. 2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., during a ground maintenance engine run.

The problem was in the F-35's integrated power package, an F-35-unique system that combines the functions of engine starter, emergency and auxiliary power unit, environmental control system and back-up generator.

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the Joint Strike Fighter training center. It currently has two F-35s.

A helicopter that served as Marine One is the newest display at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The green and white Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King was one of several similar models used by the White House beginning in 1962 to transport the president. It was acquired two years ago and went through months of restoration and is on display in Hangar Bay One.

The Fokker AIRINC parts repair facility in Fairhope, Ala., will close by October, shifting operations to a larger facility in LaGrange, Ga. Fokker Technologies said that some of the 55 Fairhope employees could be offered transfers. The parent company continues to wait for its business to recover from the recession. Fokker Services mainly repairs parts for U.S. airlines and other parts suppliers.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: In Mobile, Ala., Austal USA workers rejected union representation for a third time, voting 613-367 against representation by the Sheet Metal Workers International Association union, according to company officials. The election was held Thursday and Friday. Earlier in the week, Austal cut the first piece of aluminum on LCS 6, the first littoral combat ship in a projected 10-vessel, $3.5 billion deal. The latest ship, which will be christened the Jackson, is the first that Austal USA will build as a prime contractor for the U.S. Navy.… The Navy awarded Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a $110.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for long-lead construction for DDG 1001, procurement of long-lead-time material for DDG 1002 and engineering, production and support services. Ingalls Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss., is building the composite deckhouses and hangars for the DDG 1000 ships. … The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Mississippi will be commissioned in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor in Gulfport, Miss., May 2012. Mayor George Schloegel made the announcement during a meeting of the Gulfport Business Club. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Conn., is the prime contractor for the 377-foot-long USS Mississippi. A Gulfport business, Seemann Composites, provided key composite parts for the Virginia-class sub.
Marine science: Scientists at a meeting in New Orleans early in the week warned the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will create more problems unless fewer fertilizers are dumped into the Mississippi River. Also, researchers who mapped the dead zone, where oxygen levels are too low to support most marine life, found the size this year above average, 6,765 square miles, but not nearly the 9,400 square miles some had predicted due to spring flooding in the Midwest. … Jeffrey Lotz, chairman of the University of Southern Mississippi Department of Coast Sciences, was named interim director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss. He succeeds Bill Hawkins, who retired as lab director in June.