Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week in review (9/18 to 9/24)

A major player in the aerospace and defense industries, United Technologies, is on its way to increasing the size of its aerospace footprint in the Gulf Coast region with the planned purchase of aircraft-component maker Goodrich Corp.

The deal, valued at $18.4 billion, is subject to customary approvals, but once completed, United Technologies is expected to have worldwide sales of $66 billion based on projected 2011 results, and a stronger position in the aerospace and defense industry.

Both Goodrich and United Technologies have operations in the Gulf Coast region. Goodrich operates the Alabama Service Center in Foley, Ala., with some 750 employees who make and repair engine cowlings, called nacelles. United Technologies owns Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which is a tenant at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss. At SSC Pratt & Whitney assembles and tests rocket engines, including the RS-68A and J-2X engines – both important to the nation's space program.

"We are on the eve of a substantial ramp-up" for the commercial aviation industry, UT chief executive Louis Chenevert said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "With the addition of Goodrich we really strengthened our aerospace position."

Chenevert's comments echoed what industry leaders said during last week's Aerospace Alliance Summit held in Sandestin, Fla. At that summit, participants pointed out that the aerospace industry, notably commercial aviation, is growing, and that the Gulf Coast region needs to prepare for it. This region already has a wide range of activities, and is hungry for more.

United Technologies, of Hartford, Conn., has a diversified list of products that include Carrier heating and air conditioning, Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace systems, Otis elevators and escalators, Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Sikorsky helicopters, UTC Fire & Security systems and UTC Power fuel cells. After the deal to buy Goodrich, nearly half of United Technologies' revenue will come from aerospace.

United Technologies, the 44th largest U.S. corporation, is ranked among Barron's list of the world's most respected companies. In 2011 Fortune named it No. 1 "Most Admired" aerospace and defense company. It's the 16th largest U.S. manufacturer and 112th largest company in the world. It has more than 4,000 locations in more than 70 countries, and does business in about 180 countries.

Goodrich, based in Charlotte, N.C., is a major supplier of landing gear, aircraft wheels and brakes to the aerospace and defense industry. Goodrich will be combined with Hamilton Sundstrand in a new unit that will be based in Charlotte.

Speaking of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the company successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on the certified RS-68A engine, the world's most powerful hydrogen-fueled engine, at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, Miss.

The tests demonstrated the capability of the engine to operate for 4,800 seconds of cumulative run time, four times the design life of the engine and more than 10 times what's needed to boost a United Launch Alliance heavy-lift rocket into space.

The RS-68A, which evolved from the RS-68, is a liquid-hydrogen/liquid-oxygen booster engine designed for the Delta IV family of launch vehicles. In addition, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and NASA have begun testing on the upper-stage J-2X engine. To date, five hot-fire tests have been conducted on the J-2X, which could be used to boost humans beyond low-Earth orbit.

The Stennis (Space Center) Education Office in Mississippi has released its new "Food for Thought" teaching curriculum and interactive website. It uses the idea of food in space to teach students such topics as caloric content and nutritional value of food, while challenging them to build space robots, design a better microgravity coffee cup and create a space cookie recipe.

The curriculum is the third produced by the Stennis education team, all within the last 15 months. It's part of NASA's Teaching from Space initiative, designed to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning by students.

The folks who participated in that Aerospace Alliance Summit in Sandestin, Fla., would be applauding this. At the summit they heard aerospace companies say the region has to really make a push to get children interested in science, technology, engineering and math - STEM education. These Teaching from Space initiatives shows NASA's SSC is doing its part.

Jacobs Technology Inc.
, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded $42.4 million under a
previously awarded contract to continue information technology services until the transition to the next generation Enterprise Network is accomplished. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va., and is expected to be completed in June 2014. … L-3 Communications Systems Field Support, Vertex Aerospace LLC., Madison, Miss., was awarded a $48.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for aircraft maintenance and logistical life cycle support for 66 C-12 aircraft for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Work will be performed in Texas, Nebraska, Canada, Arizona, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Florida, California, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Japan, Cuba and Bahrain. Work is expected to be completed in September 2012. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $17 million contract for the Rapid Deployment Capability Weaponization Program in support of the MQ-8B Fire Scout. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and Grand Rapids, Mich., and is expected to be completed in March 2013. … Del-Jen Inc., Clarksville, Tenn., was awarded a $24.6 million modification under a previously awarded contract to exercise option four, for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Pensacola and surrounding areas. The work to be performed provides for public works administration including labor, management, supervision, materials, supplies and more. Work will be performed in Pensacola and is expected to be completed by September 2012.

Tidbits from other fields
Shipbuilding: Jackson County, Miss., leaders are inviting companies to bid on a $20 million maritime training facility to be built on Ingalls Shipbuilding property. On Monday, the Board of Supervisors and Port Authority's Board of Commissioners passed a joint resolution to advertise bid on the federally funded shipbuilding academy. The project, funded through a Hurricane Katrina community development block grant, will help Ingalls expand its two- to four-year apprentice program to about 1,000 students, leaders have said. Construction on the 76,000-square-foot facility is expected to take 18 months.
Marine science: The Destin-based nonprofit AquaGreen wants to build a marine life center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on Okaloosa Island. The pitch for the proposed fish hatchery and aquarium was made to Okaloosa County commissioners at a board meeting. The county owns a 35-acre parcel on the north side of U.S. Highway 98 where the group wants the aquarium. AquaGreen’s facility would include a 30,000-square-foot interactive aquarium and 50,000 square feet of hatcheries, nurseries, classrooms and labs.
Advanced materials: The University of Southern Mississippi School of Polymers and High Performance Materials unveiled the Sidney Lauren Memorial Center, located in the Polymer Science Research Center. Lauren, who died in 2010, was a longtime figure in the coatings industry and helped provide money for scholarships to Southern Miss' polymer science students in his capacity as on-and-off director of the Washington, D.C.-based Coatings Industry Education Foundation.