Saturday, May 5, 2012

Week in review (4/29 to 5/5)

An acceptance test at Stennis Space Center; an update on United Technologies' push to sell Rocketdyne; the death of an Eglin-based soldier; news on the F-35; a grant for airport improvements; some news from the region's brand new science learning centers; the bankruptcy filing of a company that had been courted by Louisiana; and a Boeing celebration marking 50 years in Alabama are some of the news items during the week of interest to the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor.

Here's the week in review, with links to posts and stories if you want more detailed information:

NASA's commercial space flight partners are continuing to move forward, despite the delay in the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Software issues are being worked out before the launch of the rocket carrying the Dragon capsule -- the first attempt by a private company to send cargo to the International Space Station. (Post)

The launch originally was scheduled for April 30, but it won't occur now until at least May 19. It's a demonstration project for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, and a key to the project is Dragon's capability to rendezvous and berth with the ISS. To read more about this, take a look at Spaceflight's update.

SpaceX has a contract to fly 12 cargo missions to the ISS. Meanwhile, another company with a COTS contract, Orbital Sciences Corp., is preparing its Antares rocket for a test flight in August from Wallops Islands, Va.

The first stage of the Antares will be powered by two Aerojet AJ26 engines. One of those engines, E9, was tested during the week at Stennis Space Center, Miss. A team of NASA, Orbital Sciences Corp. and Aerojet engineers monitored the 55-second hot-fire engine acceptance test on the E-1 test stand. It was the eighth test of an AJ26 at Stennis. After review and inspection, the engine will be shipped to the Wallops Flight Facility launch site for installation on the Antares. (Post)

-- Speaking of NASA, the agency picked 10 proposals from small business and research institution teams to continue work on technologies for future missions. One of the Phase II award winners in the agency's Small Business Technology Transfer Program is developing a project for Stennis Space Center. The team members are Combustion Research and Flow Technology of Pipersville, Pa., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Ala. (Post)

-- Stennis International Airport, just outside Stennis Space Center, Miss., is getting a federal grant of $855,000 for improvements associated with a new terminal. The projects include construction of a new aircraft parking apron, rehabilitation of part of another apron and repainting taxiway markings. Some of the funds also will be used to improve a runway safety area, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. (Post) By the way, Rolls-Royce uses this airport to transport its engines for testing at SSC.

United Technologies is focusing on one possible buyer for its Rocketdyne unit, the head of the company's Pratt & Whitney engine unit told Reuters. In March UT put Rocketdyne up for sale to help finance its $16.5 billion pending takeover of components maker Goodrich. Rocketdyne, which makes rocket engines for spacecraft, has an operation at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Goodrich has an operation in Foley, Ala. (Post)

-- You may recall when Louisiana tried to lure Hawker Beechcraft to Baton Rouge more than a year ago. The state offered incentives to get the company to leave Wichita, Kan. Now Hawker Beechcraft has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy The company reached an agreement with many creditors on a plan to restructure its debt, and it secured funding to continue to pay workers and vendors.

In addition to Wichita, the company has operations Arkansas, the United Kingdom and Mexico, along with more than 100 service centers worldwide. The bankruptcy is a tough blow for Wichita. Boeing plans to close its large plant in the city. (Post)

-- Speaking of Boeing, that company during the week celebrated 50 years in Alabama. It's the largest aerospace company in the state, where it maintains its Strategic Missile and Defense Systems headquarters in Huntsville, as well as its largest program, Ground-based Midcourse Defense. Huntsville also hosts Boeing Exploration Launch Systems, which oversees NASA's Space Launch System and support to the International Space Station. Boeing also has operations at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and in Northwest Florida. (Post)

-- L3 Crestview Aerospace on during the week unveiled the Armed Forces Tribute Memorial, designed and built by its workers. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said it’s an outstanding thing for the company to have at its gate, according to WEAR-TV in Pensacola. Miller said the products of L3 go to the warfighter, and the memorial will serve as a reminder of this important work. L3 Crestview Aerospace employs about 900 people at its facility at the Bob Sikes Airport. (Post)

A soldier assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., who was shot to death by an Afghan soldier, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month, according to his hometown newspaper.

Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Britton-Mihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, Calif., was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin. He was at a base in Kandahar province when he was shot to death by an Afghan soldier. (Post)

-- The state of Florida will have $4.6 million to spend on programs supporting its defense
installations in the fiscal year starting July 1, according to Defense Communities 360. Funding includes money for three grant programs and the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

The task force was created last year and allocated $5 million. The FY 2012-2013 budget adds $2 million more, while the grant programs will get $2.6 million. Florida is home to 21 military bases and missions, many of them in Northwest Florida. (Post)

-- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told a crowd at the Air Armament Museum during the week that it would be foolish to move any of Eglin Air Force Base’s missions elsewhere. He said investments have been made at Eglin for decades, and affirmed his support of a defense authorization bill marker requiring the Air Armament Center to stay at Eglin unless a future Base Realignment and Closure Act declares otherwise, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. (Post) Rubio also visited Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Fla.

-- The new leader of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team for the 2013-2014 season will be Cmdr. Thomas Frosch. The native of Michigan joins the Blue Angles after serving as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 146 at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. The change of command will be Nov. 4, 2012. The team is based at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (Post)

-- Lt. Col. Jason Costello has assumed command of the 325th Training Support Squadron from Lt. Col. Douglas Kugler during a change of command ceremony during the week at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Costello was the 325th Fighter Wing Chief of Safety. Kugler is now the 325th Operations Group Action Officer. (Post)

-- Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast Public Works Department Pensacola, Fla., awarded a $3.6 million Utility Energy Services Contract to Gulf Power of Pensacola for an energy conservation project at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla. The project is designed to reduce energy consumption and will start in July. (Post)

-- This one isn’t aerospace, but it's interesting for this region's military activities. The Pensacola News Journal reported Saturday that the Department of Homeland Security plans to station up to 200 civilian cyber security specialists at Corry Station, where they'll work to protect federal computer networks. (Story)

STEM centers
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly will be keynote speaker during the May 11 grand opening for the first class of students attending the National Flight Academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Kelly, a former combat pilot, will be joined by retired astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The flight academy, a replica of the inside of an aircraft carrier, is designed to interest students in careers in science, technology, engineering and math. (Post)

Meanwhile, another center that focuses on STEM, the Infinity Science Center near the Mississippi and Louisiana state line, will show off on Monday its first major aeroponically-grown lettuce harvest from an agriculture exhibit. The exhibit demonstrates methods astronauts on long-duration space missions can use to grow food, in this case lettuce grown without the use of soil. Students and the media have been invited. (Post)

OK, here are a couple of things from the F-35 front. As you know, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

Pratt and Whitney has delivered the 50th production F135 engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35. The engine is scheduled to be installed in a F-35C carrier variant for the Navy, which will be delivered to Eglin this summer. To date, the F135 propulsion system has powered more than 330 vertical landings, 2,000 test flights producing more than 3,000 flight hours. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $7.5 million modification to the previously awarded contract for F-35 Low Rate Initial Production IV Sustainment. It provides for the procurement of 1,198 active matrix liquid crystal displays for all low rate initial production variants. Work will be done in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in May 2012. The contract combines purchases for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the Cooperative Program Participant. (Post)

L-3 Communications Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded two contracts during the week for work at Corpus Christi Army Depot. In one, the company was awarded a $48.2 million labor-hour contract to provide labor services in support of aircraft production at the Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas. In the second, the company was awarded a $29.8 million labor-hour contract to provide for the labor and administration services in support of aircraft production at the depot. … Qualis Corp., Madison County, Ala., and Spectrum Comm Inc., Newport News, Va., were awarded a $77 million contract to procure operational test and evaluation services to support Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in accomplishment of operational test and evaluation activities. The locations of performance are Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Eglin, Air Force Base, Fla., Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and Edwards, Air Force Base, Calif.

USS Independence: The littoral combat ship USS Independence arrived at Naval Base San Diego during the week, wrapping up LCS-2's maiden voyage from Mayport, Fla. The ship, built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., was commissioned in 2010. (Post)

JHSV: Austal USA of Mobile, Ala., had a keel-laying ceremony during the week for the third Joint High Speed Vessel. About 100 people gathered for the ceremony, according to the Mobile Press-Register. The vessels are equipped with helicopter landing pads and are designed for use in shallow waters. (Post)

USS Mississippi: General Dynamics Electric Boat during the week delivered the nuclear-powered
submarine Mississippi to the U.S. Navy more than a year ahead of schedule and more than $60 million below target cost. SSN-782, the ninth ship of the class, will join the fleet in a commissioning ceremony June 2 in Pascagoula, Miss. (Post)

LHA 7: The latest large-deck amphibious assault ship being built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., LHA 7, will be named USS Tripoli. LHA 7 has an increased aviation capacity to include an enlarged hangar deck and more that will support helicopters, tilt rotors and Joint Strike Fighters F-35B aircraft. (Post)

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded an $11.5 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for fiscal 2012 class services in support of class product fabrication, delivery, engineering, engineering support and integrated logistics support of the DDG 1000 destroyer. Work will be done in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss. (Post)