NASA has traditionally been an organization where innovation is important, and that hasn't changed in an age where commercial companies are handling low-Earth orbit missions. The agency is focusing on deep-space missions, and innovation is important to that.
A project in Huntsville, which could eventually have implications for Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, is a case in point. NASA recently successfully tested a pressurized, 8-foot diameter cryogenic propellant tank made of composite materials.
That's important for the next generation of rockets and spacecraft needed for future space exploration. Cryogenic propellants are gasses chilled to subfreezing and condensed to form combustible liquids. Propellants such as liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen are used to provide the thrust needed for large rockets. Tanks traditionally have been made out of metals, but the tank tested at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center is a potential game-changer.
Switching from metallic to composite construction could increase performance through a dramatic reduction in weight. A potential initial target application for the composite technology is an upgrade to the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket.
"This investment in game changing space technology will help enable NASA's exploration of deep space while directly benefiting American industrial capability in the manufacturing and use of composites," Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology at NASA headquarters in Washington.
Boeing built the tank at its Tukwila, Wash. facility. NASA and Boeing are in the process of manufacturing an 18 foot-diameter composite tank that also will be tested at Marshall next year. (Story)
The Gulf Coast region is heavily involved in advanced materials work, notably at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., and at Florida State University's High-Performance Materials Institute in Tallahassee, Fla. In addition, Michoud is where the Orion and core stage of SLS are being built, and SSC is where the engines will all be tested.
- Lockheed Martin delivered the third of four highly elliptical earth orbit (HEO) satellite payloads as part of the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). The SBIRS program, which provides improved missile warning capabilities, include four HEO payloads, four GEO satellites, and ground assets to receive, process, and disseminate the infrared mission data. SBIRS is an A2100 satellite-based spacecraft, and work on the A2100 core's propulsion system, which positions the spacecraft in orbit, is done at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)
Syphax Airlines of Tunisia has confirmed its order to buy three fuel-efficient A320neo jetliners and three A320, all powered by CFM International engines. The list price of an A320neo is $100.2 million and the A320 is $91.5 million. The company announced plans to buy the planes at the recent Paris Air Show. Airbus broke ground in April on a $600 million A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. (Post)
- EADS North America, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $12.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, option-filled contract for contractor logistics support for the Army's aviation assets. Work will be performed in Columbus, Miss. (Post) In addition to the Lakota helicopter plant in Columbus, EADS also has operations in Mobile, Ala.
Northrop Grumman won a training-simulation contract potentially worth $490 million to support the Air Force's next-generation air-combat virtual-training network. Northrop Grumman Information Systems of Herndon, Va., was awarded the follow-on support for the Combat Air Force Distributed Mission Operations and Integration program.
The system will connect dissimilar combat-aircraft simulators, from fighters to refueling aircraft, to the same interactive trainer. The F-35 pilot-training center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., one of the centers that will be connect to the Air Force's mission-operations training network. (Post)
- United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $134 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract. This modification provides for non-recurring and recurring sustainment, site activation and depot activation efforts in support of the Joint Strike Fighter F135 Propulsion System Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI. (Post)
- Lockheed Martin received a $12.7 million contract modification to supply the final batch of automatic backup oxygen supply (A-BOS) systems for the F-22 Raptor fleet. F-22 pilots are trained at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Post)
Col. Patrick Higby next month will become commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. He'll be replacing Brig. Gen. Brad Spacy, who has been named director for logistics, installations and mission support for the European Air Force command at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, according to the Sun Herald. Spacy has been commander at Keesler since May 2012. Higby is currently deputy commander of the White House Communications Agency at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. (Story)
- Over at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Col. Bill West took command of the 1st Special Operations Wing in a change of command ceremony during the week. West, a navigator, comes to Hurlburt from the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. He succeeds Col. Jim Slife, who has headed the wing for two years. (Post)
At nearby Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Col. Christopher Riga took over as commander of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during a change of command ceremony. He's the group’s third commander since it moved from Fort Bragg, N.C., to its new 500-acre cantonment in Eglin Air Force Base. Riga replaces Col. Antonio Fletcher, who has served as commander of the 7th Special Forces Group for two years. (Post)
- Eglin Air Force Base's northwest gate will be closed beginning Monday because of manpower issues from civilian furloughs, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. It will remain closed until the furloughs are lifted, said Lois Walsh, a spokeswoman for Eglin. That could mean September. An estimated 40,000 vehicles use Eglin's four gates each day. Of those, about 2,000 go through the northwest gate. (Story)
- Sequestration has hit the region’s base commissaries. In Florida, commissaries at Pensacola Naval Exchange near Corry Station and Eglin Air Force base are among 247 commissaries that will be closed on Mondays. The commissary at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss., will also be closed Monday.
About 148 other commissaries will close Tuesdays as well. The list includes Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Hurlburt Field and Tyndall in Florida, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Naval Air Station Columbus and Naval Air Station Meridian, all in Mississippi, and Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse, La. (Post)
A feature story was published during the week in the Northwest Florida Daily News about the 4th Special Operations Squadron, which is getting a much-needed break after 12 years of nearly constant deployment. The squadron, which provides close air support for Special Operations ground troops, has been in high demand that whole time. Airmen have been deploying and coming home in two- or three-month cycles the entire time. (Story)
Sunil Harman begins work July 23 as Okaloosa County's new airport director. Harman, who has worked as Tallahassee’s aviation director since 2011, was chosen from 175 applicants. He will oversee Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport and Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. Harman replaces Greg Donovan, who left in March 1. (Post)
A proposed change to Okaloosa County’s land development code would prohibit private or residential airports from operating on the waterfront. The policy change also would restrict private airports to one of three zoning areas: agricultural, institutional or airport industrial park. County commissioners held the first of two public hearings on the change Tuesday. The second hearing is scheduled for July 16 in Fort Walton Beach. There's been some concern over helicopter sightseeing businesses adding to air traffic congestion. (Story)
Contract: Raytheon Integrated Defense System, Portsmouth, R.I., was awarded $14.2 million for cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order #0004 under a previously awarded Basic Ordering Agreement for upgrading the AN/AQS-20A mine hunting sonar 3493-AS-780-9 configuration with a high frequency wide band forward look sonar and multi-function side looking sonar and associated components. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)