Saturday, May 24, 2014

Week in review (5/18 to 5/24)

It's precisely why rocket engines are tested at Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi before being fitted to a launch vehicle.

On Thursday an Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 rocket engine of the type used to power Orbital Sciences' Antares launch vehicle failed during hot fire testing. The liquid oxygen and kerosene engine, a modified version of the Russian-built NK-33, was about halfway through a test at the E-complex when it exploded, according to NASAspaceflight.

Fortunately, nobody was injured.

The Sun Herald reported that while officials didn't confirm or deny the explosion report, a NASA spokesman in Washington said the test stand was being checked to ensure it was intact. The test started at 2 p.m. and 30 seconds into the 54-second test the engine terminated, the newspaper said. Orbital said it resulted in extensive damage to the engine.

It was back in June 2011 that another AJ-26 engine was badly damaged in a fuel fire at Stennis Space Center. The AJ-26 engine shut down prematurely after a fuel leak developed during a hot-fire acceptance test, and the leaking kerosene fuel ignited. The test stand at Stennis Space Center suffered only minor damage.

Orbital Sciences has already had multiple successful launches of the Antares, which lifts the cargo vehicle Cygnus on supply missions to the International Space Station. The rockets are launched from Wallops Island, Va. (Post)

Meanwhile, a union strike against Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center earlier in the week ended when members of Local 2249 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union approved a three-year contract. The union representing about 115 workers who support NASA rocket testing at SSC went on strike after midnight May 16. (Post)

An A350 that for the past few weeks has undergone extreme temperature tests at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., paid a visit to Airbus' new home in Mobile, Ala. It made a low-altitude pass over the Mobile Aeroplex Friday. That's where Airbus has an engineering center and is building an A320 final assembly line. It also flew over the Robert Trent Jones golf course, site of the Airbus LPGA Classic. The A350 is a mid-size, widebody jetliner and has been at the McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin since early this month undergoing extreme weather tests. (Post)

-- Airbus posted more positions for its A320 final assembly line being built in Mobile. The hourly positions include aircraft mechanics, cabin installers and aircraft systems installers. Starting pay rates range from $16.50 to $22.50 an hour plus benefits. A minimum of nine months training abroad is required. The company also announced it's seeking a salaried supply chain inspector. (Post)

-- China Southern Airlines plans to buy 80 A320 jetliners with a listed value of at least $7.3 billion from Airbus. Asia's largest carrier's order includes 50 A320neo jets, the company said in a statement to the Shanghai stock exchange. (Post)

U.S. Special Operations Command plans to add a forward-facing gun and better armor to its 50 CV-22 Ospreys, along with Hellfire missiles to the AC-130 fleet. And both would get new command and control and radio frequency jammers and countermeasures.

That's according to a briefing during an annual conference in Tampa, Fla. The command has developed a laser-guided small diameter bomb that will be fielded on the AC-130 gunship this summer, and is just starting the process of fitting Hellfire missiles on the aircraft. Hurlburt Field, Fla., is home of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. (Post)

-- The Holiday Inn Resort Beachfront on Okaloosa Island is now open. The Florida resort is the first private hotel to be built on Air Force land. The project has been in the works for six years, the result of an Air Force directive to find under-utilized properties and make some money off of them.

Innisfree Resorts built the hotel on a prime stretch of beachfront, and they'll pay the Air Force a portion of their revenue. The money will be used for projects to boost morale and welfare on Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)

The 152-room, $25 million hotel is a joint project of Innisfree and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and sits on 17 acres at Eglin's A-5 test site. The Air Force has a radar stations on the roofs of the buildings, camouflaged as a giant beach ball.

Additional flights and larger planes will fly into the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi this summer. That’s according to Clay Williams, airport executive director, who said spring and summer are typically the busiest travel time in this market.

Many of the changes involve larger aircraft. Last week the FAA said it will provide $4.5 million to rehabilitate the zones at the end of the runway that take the force of a plane touchdown. The airport is located in Gulfport. (Post)

M7 Aerospace LLC, San Antonio, Texas, was awarded a $16.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics support for 12 Navy/Marine Corps UC-35 aircraft and seven Navy C-26 aircraft at 10 locations, including the Fleet Marine Reserve Detachment, Belle Chasse, La. … Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $20 million modification for acceleration effort in support of the production of Space-Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) 5 and 6 satellites. The Mississippi Space and Technology Center, Stennis Space Center, Miss., does satellite core propulsion system work for the SBIRS. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $27.7 million modification for QF-16 Full-Scale Aerial Target Lot 2. This option is for the purchase of 23 QF-16 FSATs and 23 four-year warranties of the QF-16 Drone-Peculiar Equipment (DPE). Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBYK (Aerial Targets), Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $9.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract to execute Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe for the F-35 air system. Work will be done in California and Texas and is expected to be completed in May 2016. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 training center.

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