Saturday, November 28, 2015

Week in review (11/22 to 11/28)

The restart of production of RS-25 rocket engines, certification of the engine for A320neo, a state department OK to sell three Global Hawks to Japan and more contracts for the F-35 were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast I-10 region during the week.

After a two-week absence, here's your week in review:

Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif., was selected by NASA to restart production of the RS-25 engine for the agency's Space Launch System.

SLS will use four RS-25 engines to carry the agency's Orion spacecraft and launch explorers on deep space missions. The first four missions will be flown using 16 existing, upgraded engines that were used in the Space Shuttle program. Those engines are at Stennis Space Center, Miss., which will do all the testing for the engines.

Under the $1.16 billion contract, the engines will be made more affordable and expendable for SLS. The new engines will have fewer parts and welds and will be certified to a higher operational thrust level. (Post)

In another space-related item, SpaceX received orders from NASA to send astronauts to the International Space Station in the coming years. The announcement was a formal step in a process that began earlier this year when Boeing was given the nod by NASA to send crew to the orbiting outpost by late 2017.

Both Boeing and SpaceX have received billions in seed money from NASA to restore American access to the ISS after the space shuttle program ended in 2011. SpaceX is using Stennis Space Center, Miss., for research into its next generation of rocket engines. (Post)

Meanwhile, another private space company, Blue Origin, successfully landed its New Shepard space vehicle back at the launch site in West Texas after it flew in space and reached its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet. What makes it intriguing is the space craft landed upright, like in the science-fiction movies of old.

The launch vehicle came in for a controlled landing just over four feet from the center of the pad. The spacecraft, powered by a single BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine, is named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Blue Origin has used Stennis Space Center, Miss., to test engine components. (Post)

The CFM Leap-1A turbofan has gained joint certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency, clearing the engine to power the
Airbus A320neo in revenue service in mid-2016.

The Leap-1A flew for the first time on the Airbus A320neo on May 19, 2015. A second aircraft was added to the test program in September and, to date, the two airplanes have logged a combined total of more than 140 flights and 360 hours of flight testing.

CFM International is a joint project of Snecma (Safran) of France and GE of the United States. Airbus is building the A320 series of jetliners in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

Pratt & Whitney of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $214.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 10 annualized sustainment in support of the F-35 for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, non-U.S. Department of Defense participants and foreign military sales customers.

It includes support services for LRIP 10 propulsion systems as well as hardware and training course material and equipment. Work will be done in East Hartford (76 percent); Oklahoma City, Okla. (18 percent); Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (2 percent); Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (1 percent); Hill Air Force Base, Utah (1 percent); Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (1 percent); and Beaufort, S.C. (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in April 2019.

The contract combines purchases for the Air Force (47 percent); Marine Corps (27 percent); Navy (11 percent); international partners (12 percent); and foreign military sales customers (3 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

In another F-35-related contract, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $13 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide interim contractor support for F-35A aircraft at Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Ariz. Work will be done in Glendale and is expected to be completed in November 2016. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

The U.S. State Department has approved a Foreign Military Sale to Japan for RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft and associated equipment, parts and support for some $1.2 billion. Fuselage work on all variants of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

In another unmanned system item of interest to this region, Stephen Luxion, a retired Air Force colonel, has been named associate director of the unmanned systems center in Starkville, Miss.

The Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned Aerial Systems through Research Excellence (ASSURE) center is based at Mississippi State University, and involves multiple universities, government agencies and private firms. Drone testing in Mississippi is done at Stennis Space Center on the Gulf Coast, over farms in the Delta, and at the Raspet Flight Research Lab in Starkville.

Luxion, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, retired from the military in 2014. He established the Air Force's first armed drone squadron after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; helped NATO establish its first “ aerospace center of excellence;” and as his final military assignment taught aerospace studies and tested drones at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (Post)

Air Force Col. Daniel J. Heires has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. Heires is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the commander, 2nd Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (Post)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Week in review (11/1 to 11/7)

The Boeing and Airbus duopoly has a new challenger -- granted, one that's far behind but a challenger non-the-less. The C919, a narrow-body jet that can seat 168 passengers, has rolled off the assembly line in China.

Its first test flight will be next year, but builder Comac said it’s already received orders for 517 aircraft from 21 customers. It's in the same market as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. The C919 is made in China, but it also has parts from around the world, including its engine and avionics.

The C919 has a long way to go. Just this week Airbus said it won 910 plane orders in the first 10 months of the year, boosted by China Aviation Supplies Holding Company's decision to firm up an order for 30 A330-300s in October. Excluding cancellations, net orders totaled 850 aircraft in the period from January to October. (Story)

Meanwhile, Korean Air during the week signed a contract with Airbus for a firm order for 30 A321neo aircraft plus 20 options. Korean Air is a new customer for the popular single jetliner. Korean Air will operate the A321neo on regional services. (Story)

The economy
In Mississippi, Tulane University economics professor Peter Ricchiuti said the economy is nowhere near as bad as some people thing. He was a speaker at the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation's investors dinner.

"The economy is doing a lot better than you're hearing in the media," he said. "I see some very positive numbers. The stock market has tripled in the last six years." According to stock index performance for the year ending Sept. 30, the aerospace/defense index is up 3.2 percent, he said.

That's especially good for Jackson County because of its existing businesses and potential to draw in more aerospace-related companies. "You are really in the sweet spot," he said.

Moss Point is home of the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center, which builds portions of the unmanned Global Hawk and Fire Scout. It's also close to Mobile County, Ala., which is building Airbus jetliners. (Post)

Plans were approved for a 10-megawatt solar power project at Fort Rucker, Ala., one of two major solar projects approved for the state Tuesday by the Alabama Public Service Commission. The other project is at Anniston Army Depot.

The Photovoltaic Solar Array System supports the Defense Department’s call for Army facilities getting 25 percent of energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. The Army is expected to consume a minimum of 51 percent of the power through an existing area contract with Alabama Power, which will own and operate the facility.

The series of networked solar arrays will be located on about 110 acres within a former trailer park near an electrical substation that will be used for connectivity. (Post)

- The Navy's Blue Angels demonstration squadron will hold a change of command ceremony tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi will relieve Capt. Tom Frosch. Bernacchi joined the Blue Angels in November. Prior to selection as commander, he served as a Federal Executive Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Frosch joined the Blue Angels in November 2012 and led the team through more than 130 air shows and flyovers. The team had its final show of the season Saturday at NAS Pensacola. Frosch's next assignment will remain in Pensacola at the Naval Education Training Command headquarters. (Post)

Okaloosa County Commissioners have unanimously backed a plan to spend $3 million over the next three years to bring a new airline to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. The money comes from the county bed tax reserves. Details have not been made available, but the airline would bring new areas of service to the airport. (Post)

Meanwhile, Okaloosa County plans to ask Eglin Air Force Base for significantly more flexibility in its lease and operation of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. The 130-acre airport is at the base on land owned by the Air Force.

Three months ago the county said it could no longer afford the annual lease payment. Under the new agreement, the county would pay Eglin a flat fee of $400,000 year, and 50 cents per departing passenger for every passenger above the 400,000 mark. The county also plans to ask Eglin to allow the construction of a gas station or convenience store on airport property. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $5.3 billion modification contract to the previously awarded low-rate initial production Lot IX F-35 advance acquisition contract.

This modification provides for the procurement of 41 F-35As, including 26 F-35As for the Air Force; six F-35As for Norway; seven F-35As for Israel; two F-35As for Japan; 12 F-35Bs, including six for the Marine Corps and six for the British Royal Navy; and two F-35Cs for the Navy.

Work will be done in Fort Worth (30 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (25 percent); Warton, United Kingdom (20 percent); Orlando, Fla. (10 percent); Nashua, N.H. (5 percent); Nagoya, Japan (5 percent); and Baltimore, Md. (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2017.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)