Saturday, May 30, 2015

Week in review (5/25 to 5/30)

We’ll have to mark up this past week as one of the most historically significant for the Gulf Coast aerospace corridor. Airbus sent its first shipment of aircraft sections to its brand new assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., one of the RS-25 engines that will power NASA's Space Launch System was tested at Stennis Space Center, Miss., commercial space company SpaceX got the thumbs up to compete for military launches, and the QF-4 target drone has wrapped up its service to the military.

And this isn’t on the same historic playing field, but the Gulf Coast Reporters' League has finished its fifth annual aerospace book. It will be available Monday.

Here's your week in review:

The ship carrying major aircraft sections for the Airbus jetliner that will be built in Mobile, Ala., is on its way. The BBC Fuji left Hamburg Friday for its 20-day voyage across the Atlantic. The major parts include fuselage sections, wings and tail sections built at plants in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain, all made from parts from an international supply chain.

They'll be assembled starting this year and will come out at the other end of the plant as an A321 jetliner for customer JetBlue. That plane will be delivered in the spring of 2016. (Post)

The Airbus plant at the Mobile Aeroplex will eventually produce four to five aircraft a month, but that figures is likely going to go upward. The sales chief of Airbus, John Leahy, said during the week that Airbus may be producing as many as 60 A320 family passenger jets per month, up from the current 42.

There are currently three plants that produce A320 family aircraft: Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China. Mobile will be the fourth assembly line, and will have to pull its weight with any increase in production.

Both Airbus and Boeing have huge backlogs for their popular single-aisle jetliners, and both are talking about producing more planes. The question has always been, can the supply chains keep up.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams said Airbus could ramp up to 60 planes per month as soon as 2018. A formal decision by the company is expected by the year's end. (Post)

Meanwhile, Airbus rival Boeing is making additional inroads in this Southeast region, specifically in Mississippi. The company chose Mississippi State University, thats up in Starkville, as the host for a research center that will lead development on composites the company will eventually use to build aircraft.

The Stitched Resin Infused Composite Research Center will be housed within MSU’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. Boeing would provide $3 million on equipment and fund two full-time engineers.

But South Mississippi isn't being left out. The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg will serve as a technology incubator of next-generation composite material systems. Southern Miss has entered into a new master agreement with Boeing to accelerate research and development of next generation materials, including polymers and polymer matrix composites.

The new agreement builds on an existing relationship between Southern Miss and Boeing, which currently has a research contract to utilize the assets of the Accelerator, the university's business incubator. (Post)

An RS-25 rocket engine had a successful 450-second test during the week at NASA's Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. The hotfire test was at the A-1 test stand, where Apollo rocket stages and Space Shuttle main engines, also RS-25s, were tested in the past.

One of the objectives being evaluated in this test is the new engine controller, or "brain" of the engine. The controller monitors the engine conditions and communicates the performance needs. RS-25 engines tested on the stand will power the core stage of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is being developed to carry humans deeper into space than ever before.

A cluster of four RS-25s will power the SLS. NASA engineers conducted an initial RS-25 engine test on the A-1 stand Jan. 9. RS-25 testing now is set to continue through the summer. (Post)

In another key event regarding space, the Air Force certified private company SpaceX to launch military satellites, opening the door to a lucrative market previously held solely by a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture. SpaceX can compete for military space contracts valued at $9.5 billion over the next five years.

SpaceX, established in 2002, is a leader in commercial space launches. Its  Dragon space capsule and Falcon launch vehicle have notched successful cargo flights to the International Space Station, and is moving toward approval to eventually carry astronauts. SpaceX is using facilities at Stennis Space Center, Miss., for R&D on its next generation rocket engine. (Post)

Another piece of history is going away. Tyndall Air Force Base's QF-4 aerial target drone operations came to an end in mid-May following Combat Archer, an air-to-air targeting mission for the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard.

The unmanned QF-4 provided full-scale targets for the pilots, but it's being replaced by the QF-16 Viper, a fourth-generation fighter. Six Vipers are scheduled for delivery to Tyndall by the close of 2015. (Post)

Space Florida and the University of West Florida signed a three-year memorandum of understanding to further develop cybersecurity technologies. Space Florida, the state's aerospace development authority, and UWF's Center for Research and Economic Opportunity will work together to determine opportunities to further develop and cybersecurity technologies to the commercial sector.

The region is heavily involved in cybersecurity. Pensacola's Corry Station is home to the Navy's Center for Information Dominance and a Department of Homeland Security Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Air Force cybersecurity personnel receive initial training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., and advanced training at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Odyssey Systems Consulting Group LTD, Wakefield, Mass., was awarded a $212.4 million contract for advisory and assistance services for the Armament Munitions Directorate in support of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2020. … Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $12 million contract to procure Griffin missiles. Work will be done in Tucson and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2016. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Sunshine Aero Industries Inc., Florala, Ala., was awarded a maximum $12.4 million contract for jet-A with additives fuel. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies. … Three companies from Pensacola, Fla., were among 10 awarded a $45 million contract for architect and engineering design serves with the Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. The companies are Hernandez Calhoun Design International P.A., BTA-TLC JV LLC and Bullock Tice Associates Inc. The contract is to support the Mobile District and South Atlantic Division military construction design program. Funding and work location will be determined with each order with a completion date of May 26, 2020. The Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $56.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for logistics and depot level services for 119 TH-57 aircraft in support of the Naval Air Training Command's Undergraduate Helicopter Pilot Training Program. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla., and is expected to be completed in May 2016.

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