Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week in review (10/7 to 10/13)

A failed merger, jobs at a new GE Aviation plant, a new commander at Tyndall Air Force Base, plans for an upcoming industry day, a step forward in developing an unmanned tanker and a space-age exoskeleton that could help paraplegics were among the news items of interest to the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor during the week.

Here's your week in review:

The proposed $45 billion merger between EADS and BAE Systems, which would have created the world's largest defense and aviation merger, won't happen. At least not for now. Reports indicated the interests of French, British and German governments could not be reconciled.

It would have merged commercial powerhouse EADS, owner of Airbus, with BAE Systems, a major defense company, putting the combined company on a par with U.S. aerospace-defense powerhouse Boeing. EADS, BAE Systems and Boeing all have multiple activities in the Gulf Coast region. (Post)

Right now there's a lot of finger-pointing, with Germany considered the primary reason the deal fell through. Analysts said Germany feared being sidelined in the deal. The issue was complicated by the stakes of France and Germany in EADS and the British government's involvement in BAE Systems.

A particularly good, in-depth piece about how the deal came about and what happened can be found in the Oct. 12 issue of Financial Times.

How much that deal will still be discussed next month during the Aviation Forum 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, is yet to be seen. The Mobile Press-Register had a story about the forum in this weekend’s paper, and said that Mobile and the Airbus supplier chain will be a focus of the forum. (Story)

Much closer to home, the Aerospace Alliance is getting ready for its fall summit Oct. 25-26 in New Orleans. According to the agenda, national political commentator Alex Castellanos will talk about the upcoming elections and former CIA Director Porter Goss will be keynote speaker on Friday. Other panelists include recently announced Marshall Space Flight Center Director Patrick Scheuermann and Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope.

You can register by clicking this link.

The list of sponsors is pretty impressive and includes aerospace companies EADS, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet, GE Aviation, L-3 and Pioneer Aerospace. You can find all the sponsors at the registeration link above.

GE Aviation will begin taking applications next month for its new composites parts factory near Hattiesburg, Miss. The announcement was made Thursday when Gov. Phil Bryant visited the nearly completed plant. The company expects to hire 250 workers within five years to make composite parts for aircraft engines and systems. GE Aviation is investing $56 million in the 340,000 square-foot Ellisville plant to meet growing aerospace demand. (Post)

A new robotic space technology spinoff derived from NASA's Robonaut 2 project may help astronauts stay healthier in space and aid paraplegics on Earth. Robonaut 2, the first
humanoid robot in space, currently is working with astronauts aboard the International
Space Station.

NASA and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a 57-pound robotic exoskeleton called X1. In short, it's a wearable robot.

The robot can either assist or inhibit movement in leg joints. In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.

The X-1 is still in the research and development phase. (Post)

-- NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will host a Space Launch System Industry Day at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Oct. 24. The event will begin with registration at 7:00 a.m., and adjourn at 2:00 p.m. to be followed by a tour of MAF.

There will be another tour of the Stennis Space Center, Miss., some 30 miles away, on the morning of Oct. 25. Those in attendance will be provided SLS Program updates, and will be afforded an opportunity to network with SLS prime contractors, NASA and Huntsville, Ala.'s, MSFC procurement and technical personnel, and representatives from federal and state organizations throughout the day. (Post)

A series of flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., were recently completed to demonstrate the ability of two unmanned aircraft to refuel in flight. The tests, which did not involve any fuel transfer, were conducted by Northrop Grumman, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA using two NASA Global Hawks, one configured as a tanker and the other as a receiver.

Among other things, the tests show the tanker could extend and retract its refueling hose, and the two Global Hawks were able to fly as close as 30 feet. The $33 million DARPA program aims to demonstrate autonomous fuel transfer between two Global Hawks, enabling flights of up to one week endurance.

Northrop Grumman is also developing the technology to help extend the operating range and flight duration of future carrier-based unmanned systems like the X-47B unmanned demonstrator aircraft. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Col. David E. Graff will be the next 325th Fighter Wing commander at Tyndall Air Force Base. He'll replaces Brig. Gen. John K. McMullen in a Nov. 14 change of command. McMullen will move on to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he'll be deputy chief of staff, Operations, Allied Air Command. Graff will lead more than 4,000 personnel who train and prepare F-22 pilots, intelligence officers, maintainers, and other support specialties. (Post)

-- At Tyndall, Matthew LaCourse, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron pilot and controller, recently reached 2,000 flying hours flying the F-4 Phantom. LaCourse spent 22 years in the Air Force and retired in 2000. He eventually got a job with Lockheed Martin flying an E-9. Through attrition he ended up in an F-4. The 82nd ATRS does weapons evaluation testing for Air Combat Command, the Defense Department and foreign military programs. (Post)

-- A team put together to test improvements for the F-15 Eagle marks 10 years during the week at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-15 Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force is composed of personnel from the 53rd Wing and 96th Test Wing. They test F-15 software upgrades to enhance air-to-air and air-to-ground combat performance, improve weapons-avionics integration and simplify aircrew displays and controls. (Post)

Walton County will spend $750,000 less next year for advertising flights after Southwest Airlines broke an agreement on flights. Walton County has been using more than $1 million annually in bed tax collections to subsidize Southwest after the company agreed to fly to and from Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in 2009. In exchange, Southwest agreed to provide direct flights from four destinations daily. In January the company will cut back and cease flights to and from Orlando. (Post)

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $10 million contract to provide systems studies, analyses integrations and demonstrations with the unmanned aerial system termed dominator and common smart sub-munition to assess the capabilities of the system in meeting Air Force Research Laboratory requirements. The contracting activity is AFRL/RWK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $28.6 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract to provide additional funds for long lead-time parts, material and components required to protect the delivery schedule of four Low Rate Initial Production Lot VII F-35 Conventional Takeoff and Landing aircraft for Italy. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the F-35 training center.

Zumwalt: Ingalls Shipbuilding has delivered to the Navy the composite deckhouse for the Zumwalt-class destroyer, DDG 1000. Ingalls is building the composite deckhouse and hangar for the DDG 1000 class at the company's Composite Center of Excellence in Gulfport, Miss. (Post)

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