Saturday, April 27, 2013

Week in review (4/21 to 4/27)

A company with ties to the Gulf Coast has a successful rocket launch; a new chapter of J-2X testing begins at Stennis Space Center; a possible $9 billion order for 60 F-35s; a new hotel opens on airport property in Pensacola; the airport near Panama City agrees to an economic-loss settlement with BP; and the retirement of the 2nd Air Force vice commander at Keesler Air Force Base were among the aerospace news items of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

The 133-foot tall Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences launched Sunday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport adjacent to NASA's Wallops Island Flight Center. Orbital hopes to have a demonstration flight in June or July using a Cygnus cargo capsule that will carry about a ton of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

Orbital is the second  company on its way to resupplying the ISS. SpaceX was the first commercial company to successfully resupply ISS. The addition of Antares bodes well for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, established in 2006 with the retirement of the space shuttle. AJ26 engines that power the first stage of Antares are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reassured lawmakers during the week that the agency isn't foot-dragging on developing a rocket to take astronauts into deep space. He told members of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding that the 70 metric-ton vehicle is on schedule, on target and on cost.

NASA is asking for $17.7 billion for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. That includes $2.73 billion to develop the Space Launch System (SLS) consisting of an Orion multi-purpose crewed vehicle and the deep-space rocket that will carry it. SLS rocket engines are tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss; Orion is built in part at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, which will also build the core stage of SLS. (Post)

- Speaking of Bolden, he presented contractor awards during the week. One went to A2Research of Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year. Another went to Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of East Hartford, Conn., the Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year. Both have operations at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

- Engineers developing NASA's next-gen rocket closed one chapter of testing with the completion of a J-2X engine test series on the A-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. Now the new chapter of full motion testing on test stand A-1 has begun.

The Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne J-2X will drive the second stage of the 143-ton heavy-lift version of the Space Launch System. The rocket will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration and send humans in NASA's Orion spacecraft into deep space.

J-2X engine 10002 was fired for the last time on the A-2 test stand April 17. This engine set a duration record for J-2X engine firings at the A-2 stand on April 4 when it fired for 570 seconds, beating the previous mark set less than a month earlier on March 7, when the same engine ran for 560 seconds.

This is the second J-2X engine Stennis has test fired. Last year the first developmental J-2X engine, called 10001, was tested. According to J-2X managers, both performed well. When the engine is eventually used in space, it will need to be able to move to help steer the rocket. (Post)

The initial single-stage, 70-metric-ton SLS configuration will use two 5-segment solid rocket boosters similar to the boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit - RS-25 engines. The evolved 143-ton (130-metric-ton) SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with more thrust than any existing U.S. liquid- or solid-fueled boosters. Companies selected for Advanced Booster contracts are ATK Launch Systems Inc. of Brigham City, Utah, Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif.

While on the subject of engines, but these more Earth-bound, Rolls-Royce reached agreement to sell its interests in the RTM322 helicopter engine program to Turbomeca, a Safran company. Rolls-Royce's 50 percent interest in the engine program will be progressively transferred to Turbomeca, which will then hold 100 percent of the RTM322 program.

The RTM322 engine powers the Apache, EH101 Merlin and NH90 helicopters. The sale is expected to complete before year end, subject to closing conditions. Rolls-Royce has its outdoor jet engine test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Safran has opened an engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

- Rolls-Royce won a $1.6 billion order from International Airlines Group (IAG) for Trent XWB engines to power 18 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. In addition, IAG has placed options for a further 18 A350 aircraft.

The engine, specifically designed for the A350 XWB, is the fastest selling Trent engine ever with more than 1,200 sold. Rolls-Royce Outdoor Jet Engine Test Facility at Stennis Space Center tests the Trent series of Rolls-Royce engines, including the XWB; the thrust reverser for the XWB was built by Goodrich, since purchased by United Technologies. It has a service center in Foley, Ala; Airbus will be building A320 jetliners in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Lockheed Martin may get a U.S. order in June for 60 F-35 jets, consolidating the sixth and seven production contracts. The contract may be valued at about $9 billion. The number of F-35s may rise to as many as 71 if orders from other nations are included.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, manager of the Pentagon’s F-35 program, has given a generally upbeat assessment of the F-35's progress. Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, said he feels "much more comfortable" about the F-35 program than he did a year and a half ago. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

- The Northrop Grumman Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) waveform was successfully demonstrated in a Lockheed Martin F-35 flight test, validating an eight-year development effort. MADL is a key capability provided by Northrop Grumman's F-35 integrated communications, navigation and identification (CNI) avionics. Northrop Grumman's integrated CNI system provides to F-35 pilots the equivalent capability of more than 27 avionics subsystems. Northrop Grumman also produces the center fuselage for the F-35; designed and produces the aircraft's radar and electro-optical subsystem; develops mission systems and mission planning software; leads the team's development of pilot and maintenance training system courseware; and manages the team's use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies. The F-35 training center is at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)

- OK, these aren't F-35s, but they are aircraft. In Panama City, Fla., two F-101 Voodoo jets are being removed from their display perches at the city marina and Gulf Coast State College. There was a ceremony during the week to mark the occasion. The jets will be disassembled and taken by the U.S. Air Force to a temporary storage location. The jets are being moved to make way for redevelopment and because of the cost of ongoing maintenance. (Post)

More than 200 people showed up for the grand opening of the new Hyatt Place Hotel Pensacola Airport during the week. The 127-room hotel is adjacent to the airport on land leased through a long-term contract. "Having this premier hotel at our international airport is a distinct advantage for our business and leisure travelers," said Airport Director Greg Donovan. The hotel interior is themed around the city's Five Flags history and extensive aviation past. It's the 18th Hyatt Place branded property in Florida. (Post)

- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City, Fla., accepted a $5.98 million economic-loss settlement from BP in connection with the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Airport Attorney Franklin Harrison expects ECP to receive the check no later than May 1. (Post)

China Aviation Supplies Holding Co. signed a deal with Airbus for 60 aircraft, a $7.7 billion deal that includes 18 wide-body A330s and 42 single-aisle A320s. The A320's high reliability and low operational cost has appealed to Chinese airlines, while the A330 offers a solution to airport congestion in large Chinese cities as larger planes can carry more passengers with fewer flights, said Fabrice Bregier, president and chief executive officer of Airbus. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

At Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Col. Andrew Cain, 2nd Air Force vice commander, retired with 30 years of military service Friday at the Bay Breeze Event Center. Maj. Gen. Len Patrick, 2nd Air Force commander, was the presiding officer for the event. (Post)

- The Air Force will trim 16,000 civilian employees from its ranks, but only a few will come from Tyndall Air Force Base. Herman Bell, chief of Tyndall's 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, said there are about 14 civilian employees that may be impacted. The Defense Department announced the civilian force at about 60 Air Force installations would be impacted by a reduction in force. (Post)

- Air Force Special Operations Command is hosting a field exercise to train forces in combat scenarios through May 3. Training events will take place in parts of Liberty, Calhoun, Franklin, as well as Bay County airspace. Most of the exercises will take place at night. In addition to hearing aircraft noise at night, residents may also hear simulated munitions fire. (Post)

OK, this is from outside the region, but it should be of interest to those of you who hope this region gets one of the six FAA drone test sites. A consortium of Washington-based organizations will soon submit the final section of a proposal to site an unmanned aircraft system research and testing facility in central Washington.

Innovate Washington, the lead agency of the state of Washington focused on fostering growth of the state's innovation sectors, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, are working with ten other state, county and private industry partners to be selected as one of six locations to conduct research that will accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

The coalition wants to create the Pacific Northwest Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center at the Grant County International Airport, the former Larson Air Force Base that's been used by the military and Boeing for flight training and testing. Coalition members also include the ports of Moses Lake and Grays Harbor, Washington State University, University of Washington, Washington Army National Guard, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing at Everett Community College, the governor's Office of Aerospace, the state Department of Commerce, and economic development agencies in Klickitat and Grays Harbor counties.

The FAA is expected to pick six sites by the end of the year. (Story)

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Aerospace Systems Sector, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $35.7 million contract modification for Global Hawk engineering and manufacturing development. Work will be performed at San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by January 2017. Fuselage work on Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss.

Contract: CACI Technologies Inc., Chantilly, Va., was awarded a $20.1 million modification to previously awarded contract for professional support services in support of Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships. Less than 2 percent of the work will be done in Panama City, Fla. Most will be done in Washington D.C. (Post)
GCRL: The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss., is growing. Near-term plans call for opening an 8,300-square-foot, four-classroom and lab addition in May and long-term plans call for erecting an $18 million Marine Education Center, the education and outreach arm of the lab. (Post)

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