Saturday, June 2, 2012

Week in review (5/27 to 6/2)

Reports were again swirling during the week about whether Mobile, Ala., will get an Airbus assembly plant. Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex, as you know, was the site where EADS planned to put a tanker assembly plant until Boeing won that project last year.

But EADS has remained interested in a U.S. assembly plant, and every few months there seem to be stories that pop up in the Gulf Coast and Seattle media. In the latest, WKRG-TV in Mobile reported the other day that Alabama officials made a revised offer to EADS Airbus.

Then King 5 News in Seattle and the Business Journal in Puget Sound had reports citing analysts, bloggers and others. One West Coast analyst said the two sides are talking but nothing is imminent and he doesn't think the French government would move so quickly after an election. He thinks there may be more clarity during the Farnborough International Air Show in the U.K. next month.

Mobile already has an Airbus engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex and an Airbus military support complex at Mobile Regional Airport, and city leaders have maintained relations with the European aerospace giant. If it happens, this new facility would, reports indicate, be an assembly line for the Airbus 320.

It's quite clear that a lot of factors are pushing EADS Airbus to build in the United States, including the favorable exchange rates and the buy-U.S. mindset in this country, not to mention heavy sales of airliners. EADS has already seen from its Eurocopter plant in Columbus, Miss., that having an operation here makes a big difference when it comes to defense dollars.

And lest you forget, Kansas is still very interested in finding a new occupant for the Boeing facility that the company is closing. Just something to keep in mind.

-- Speaking of EADS, Tom Enders during the week was elected chief executive officer of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. at a meeting of the company's board of directors in Amsterdam. He replaces Louis Gallois, who held the position for the past five years and is retiring. (Post)

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down during the week in the Pacific off Baja California after a successful cargo mission to the International Space Station. The nine-day mission was the first by a privately owned and operated spacecraft to dock with the ISS. (Post)

That mission launched what promises to be a highly competitive field of private space flight, and SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif., is the leading the pack right now.

Stennis Space Center, Miss., is testing rocket engines for two other companies involved in commercial space flights, Orbital Science Corp. and Blue Origin.

-- Lockheed Martin received the core structure for the Air Force's fourth Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite early warning system. The structure was delivered to Lockheed Martin's Mississippi Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

At SSC, technicians will integrate the spacecraft's propulsion subsystem, essential for maneuvering the satellite during transfer orbit to its final location and conducting on-orbit repositioning maneuvers throughout its mission life. The integrated core propulsion module will then be shipped to Sunnyvale, Calif., for final assembly, integration and test. (Post)

Unmanned systems
OK, there’s the Global Hawk, the Euro Hawk and now we can add another one: Polar Hawk. Canada is considering a variant of the Northrop Grumman Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, as many as three, to patrol Canada’s northern regions.

Northrop Grumman is teaming up with L-3 MAS in the effort. The aircraft's satellite communications system will be modified to cope with spotty coverage in the arctic. Global Hawk fuselage work is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the 46th Test Wing's Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office bought a 3-D laser scanner system six months ago, and it’s been a pleasant surprise how good it is.

The $150,000 Leica HDS 7000 3-D laser scanner and Rapidform reverse engineering software program was purchased to build digital models of Air Force aircraft and weapons for use in aircraft-weapon compatibility analyses.

The lead contract engineer said that four years ago it took six people two weeks to manually collect 3-D data for an A-10 aircraft, but with this scanner two people can collect the same data in two days. Now other branches are contacting Eglin, which a couple of weeks ago scanned 13 Navy aircraft in eight days. (Post)

ASRC Primus, Greenbelt, Md., was awarded a $10 million contract to provide for the services in support of aircraft refuel/defuel at Fort Rucker, Ala. Estimated completion date is Dec. 16, 2013. … EADS - NA, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $26 million contract in support of the Light Utility Helicopter Program. Work will be done in Columbus, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012.

Contract: Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $2.4 billion modification to previously awarded contract for detail design and construction of the Navy's next large-deck amphibious assault ship, LHA 7. Most of the work, 92.5 percent, will be done in Pascagoula and 1.4 percent in Ocean Springs, Miss. Work is expected to be completed by June 2018. (Post)

Command change: Capt. Brian B. Brown, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Stennis Space Center, Miss. Brown in the past headed the Naval Oceanographic Office at SSC. (Post)

Sea life: Nearly four times as many fish, shrimp and crabs were in Alabama waters in
the fall of 2011 as there were before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That’s according to
data collected by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. (Post)