Saturday, July 30, 2016

Week in review (7/24 to 7/30)

Another test of the RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss., two more A320 orders that likely will involve the Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala.; a contract to upgrade Pensacola, Fla.-based Blue Angel jets to make the Super Hornets; and swarm of UAVs over the Gulf of Mexico were among the stories of interest to the Gulf Coast region during the week.

Here's your week in review:

The RS-25 developmental test engine No. 0528 that had to be shut down early in a test July 14 was fired up again Friday and had a successful 650-second test at NASA's Stennis Space Center. The test was on the A-1 Test Stand.

The earlier July 14 test of the same engine, also at the A-1 stand, had to be aborted after 193 seconds when there was an issue with the stand. No damage was done to the engine.

Four of these Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, modified versions of the engines that were used in the Space Shuttle, will be used along with a pair of solid rocket boosters to lift the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System that will be used to send astronauts further into space than ever before. (Post)

NASA has a supply of RS-25 engines from the Space Shuttle program but has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build additional engines for SLS missions. All flight testing for SLS takes place at SSC, as will the core stage testing for the first integrated mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Exploration Mission-1. The next scheduled RS-25 developmental test at SSC is set for Aug. 18.

Two new orders for Airbus A320 jets came in during the week, and some of that work will be done at the new Airbus plant at the Mobile Aeroplex.

JetBlue amended its purchase agreement with Airbus to include an additional 15 Airbus A321ceo passenger jets and 15 A321neo jetliners. The "neo" designation indicates it's a jet with the new, more fuel-efficient engine option.

JetBlue already operates A321s and has not yet announced its engine selection for the newly ordered aircraft, but engine work on the Mobile-built planes is done in Foley, across the river in Baldwin County. (Post)

In another announcement late in the week, Allegiant Travel Co., of Las Vegas, Nev., signed a purchase agreement for 12 Airbus A320 jets with the current engine option. The deal marks the first time the low-cost airline has purchased new aircraft from any manufacturer. Each will be powered by CFM56 engines from CFM International. (Post)

-- Earlier in the week, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said during the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s annual summer conference that the second largest growing industry sector in Alabama now is aerospace. He said the arrival of Airbus in Mobile will bring "great results for this region for months and years to come." The conference was in Orange Beach. (Post)

Blue Angels
The F/A 18 jets used by the Navy's Pensacola-based Blue Angels flight demonstration team will be upgraded and converted into Super Hornets.

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., on Monday was awarded $12 million contract to make modifications to the F/A 18 Hornet jets that will make them the more advanced Super Hornets.

Nearly 83 percent of the work will be done in St. Louis, and the rest in El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to be completed September 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

The Navy, beginning Friday, planned to conduct two technology demonstrations of swarming unmanned vehicles over the next nine weeks. In the first demonstration a "flock" of 30 unmanned aerial vehicles will fly over the Gulf of Mexico.

The LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), first demonstrated in 2014, use a tube launcher that can propel the 30 UAVs within two minutes. An information-sharing data link between the UAVs enables autonomous collaboration.

The unmanned systems were to form up and four break off and perform an unspecified task. The next demonstration in September will feature swarming unmanned surface vehicles. (Post)

Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded n $11.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercises an option for the supplies and services to implement engineering changes to the Rolls Royce lift fan systems and engine ice protection system in support of the F-35 for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners.

Work will be done at Indianapolis, Ind. (97 percent); and Oklahoma City, Okla. (3 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2017. This modification combines purchases for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and international partners. 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 airport in New Orleans leads the Gulf Coast with the lowest average airfares of 10 commercial airports in the region. First quarter data from the Federal Aviation Administration's Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows Louis Armstrong International had an average fare of $324.90, the only airport in the region with a fare below the national average of $361.20.

The airports with average fare between $400 and $500 were Pensacola International Airport, $454.77, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, $463.41, Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, $472.22, Hattiesburg/Laurel Regional Airport, $479.25, and Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, $489.30.

Three other airports had averages between $500 and $600. They were Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, $512.26, Mobile Regional Airport, $554.86, and Tallahassee International Airport, $574.79. Dothan Regional Airport had an average fare of $721.69. (Post)

-- Harris Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded an $8.5 million contract modification for the Eglin Beam Steer Segment technology refresh, System Program Agency development and risk reduction efforts.

Contractor work includes establishing the BEAMSTR lab environment; conducting trade studies and analysis; prototyping solutions and reduce risk of implementation of the BEAMSTR replacement project.

Work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base and is expected to be complete by Oct. 31, 2017. (Post)

-- Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the co-pilot who sat next to Jimmy Doolittle during the famous bombing run over Japan five months after Pearl Harbor, was scheduled to be on hand Saturday to dedicate the newly remodeled Doolittle Raiders exhibit at the Air Force Armament Museum.

The museum is just outside the gate at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. During World War II the Doolittle Raiders trained at the base. Eighty airmen took off from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942 and dropped bombs on the Japanese homeland, an attack that helped lift U.S. morale. (Post)

L-3 Communications Corp. System Field Support, Madison, Miss., was awarded a $216.4 million contract modification for 12 months of continued contractor aircraft logistics support. Work will be done in Madison with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2017. … Vanquish Worldwide LLC, Maryville, Tenn., was awarded a $7.3 million contract modification for supply, maintenance and transportation for logistics support services, Fort Rucker, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 31, 2017.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Week in review (7/10 to 7/16)

One firm announcement out of Farnborough during the airshow that has an impact on the Gulf Coast region was word that Aerojet Rocketdyne would assemble and test its AR1 liquid rocket engine at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center.

That decision will expand the company's operation at SSC from 130 to about 200 employees. Aerojet Rocketdyne's operation at SSC is called the Center of Excellence for Large Liquid Rocket Engine Assembly and Test.

AR1 is being developed to support the country’s mandate to eliminate U.S. reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine for national security space launches by 2019. Three other companies are also developing replacement engines.

Aerojet Rocketdyne's facility at SSC is already home for assembly and testing of the RS-68 engine that powers the Delta IV family of launch vehicles, and the RS-25 engine that will power NASA's Space Launch System. As a part of the buildup for RS-25 assembly and testing, Aerojet Rocketdyne is locating its RS-25 low pressure turbopump assembly to the company's facility at SSC. (Post)

Speaking of the RS-25, a minor issue with the test stand triggered an early shutdown in the latest test of an RS-25 engine at SSC. The test of developmental engine No. 0528 was Thursday on the A-1 test stand.

The test was supposed to be 650 seconds, but the engine shut down 193 seconds into the test. No issues were reported with the engine, and the next test is planned for August. The test was conducted by a team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators. (Post)

In another test at SSC Friday, Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed its latest three-minute acceptance test on a liquid-fueled RS-68A booster engine. This is Aerojet Rocketdyne's 119th hot-fire test on the production model of the RS-68 engine family. The RS-68A is the world's most powerful liquid-hydrogen/liquid-oxygen booster engine and provides 702,000 pounds of lift-off thrust, some 17 million horsepower. (Post)

In another SSC-related item during the week, several media outlets reported that the Federal Aviation Administration expanded the restricted air space over SSC. The expansion supports ongoing rocket engine testing at the facility and allows Stennis Space Center’s tenants to test unmanned aerial vehicles for research and development purposes.

The restricted air space was first defined over SSC in the 1960s to test Saturn V rockets. The expansion, which went into effect on May 26, covers five areas of about 100 square miles between Stennis International Airport and the Picayune, Miss., airport. (Post)

The first Airbus jetliner built in the United States, JetBlue's A321 BluesMobile, will participate in this month's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016. The 64th annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention in Wisconsin is July 25-31 at the regional airport. The A321, built at the new Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., was delivered to JetBlue in April. Five Mobile-built Airbus jetliners have been delivered to customers so far. (Post)

The Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron announced the selection of a prior Blue Angels pilot to serve as the new Blue Angel No. 6 opposing solo pilot. Navy Cmdr. Frank Weisser will return to the team for the remainder of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Weisser previously served on the Blue Angels from 2008-2010. Weisser replaces Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, who died in a crash during a practice session in Tennessee June 2. (Post)

The Naval Aerospace Medicine Institute on July 11 launched a new Flight Medic course at Navy Medicine Operational Training Center for seven search and rescue hospital corpsmen. In the past this was done at the sailor's command. No formal course existed for standardized training until the Navy joined with the Air Force and Army in 2004 to provide a more structured education. The three services went their separate ways April 1, and the Navy moved its course from Fort Rucker, Ala., to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. (Post)

The Air Force awarded Raytheon a potential $34.8 million contract to demonstrate an updated electronic warfare technology for the Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer. MALD-X is a collaborative effort of the Air Force, Navy, Special Capabilities Office at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Florida's Eglin Air Force Base's MALD Program Office. Raytheon designed MALD to duplicate friendly aircraft flight profiles and radar signatures to confuse adversaries. (Post)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Week in review (7/3 to 7/9)

Leaders from the Gulf Coast region will be participating in the Farnborough International Airshow near London this week. The every-other-year show brings out the big names in the aerospace industry. Leaders from this region are there to talk up the benefits of having an aerospace operation right here.

The trade show portion is July 11-15, when we often hear about major contracts. The public show is July 16-17.

The F-35B short-takeoff and landing variant of the fifth-generation fighter is scheduled to participate in the show. Six F-35 jets, including one owned by Britain, were on display already at the Royal International Air Tatoo that precedes the Farnborough event.

Farnborough and the other every-other-year air show in Paris are opportunities to meet a wide variety of company officials – thus the participation of economic development officials from the region. But don’t expect any announcements related to our region. These events are typically ways to build relationships that can bring rewards down the road.

Speaking of the F-35, there were several contracts awarded for the fifth-generation fighter during the week. We follow it because Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center.

In one big contract, Pratt and Whitney Military Engines of East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $1.5 billion modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract. This modification provides components, parts, and materials for the production of Low Rate Initial Production Lot 10 F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the Air Force (44); Navy (4); and (9) F-135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the Marine Corps.

In addition, this modification provides components, parts and materials for (36) F135 –PW-100 propulsion systems for the international partners and Foreign Military Sales customers; (4) F135-PW-600 propulsion systems for the international partners; and (2) F135-PW-100 propulsion systems for the global spares pool.

Most of the work, 89 percent, will be done in East Hartford. The rest will be done in Indianapolis, Ind., and Bristol, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2019. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

In another contract, Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $559.5 million contract for non-air vehicle spares, support equipment, autonomic logistics information system hardware and software upgrades, supply chain management, full mission simulators and non-recurring engineering services in support of low rate initial production lot 10 F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Non Department of Defense (DoD) Participants, and Foreign Military Sales customers.

Most of the work, 79 percent, will be done in Orlando, Fla. The rest of the work will be done in Redondo Beach, Calif., Fort Worth, Texas, and Samlesbury, United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed July 2022. As with the F135 engine contract, the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, also is the contracting activity. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics also was awarded a $93.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for procurement of diminishing manufacturing sources electronic components. The modification will support aircraft production through Lot 14 for U.S. facilities, and Lot 15 for international facilities for the F-35.

Nearly all the work, 98 percent, will be done in Richardson, Texas, but two percent will be done in Fort Worth and is expected to be completed in June 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River is the contracting authority for this. (Post)

The Air Force announced eight installations as candidate locations where it will potentially consolidate its Battlefield Airman training – that is, the training of airmen who are part of the nation’s special ops forces.

The installations are Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Patrick AFB, all in Florida; Keesler AFB, Miss.; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; Little Rock AFB, Ark.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Last year, the Air Force reviewed its Battlefield Airman training, and the review determined grouping training at consolidated locations may lead to improvements and synergies in the current training processes. A decision will be made in early 2017. (Post)

The Air Force recently selected the first 10 enlisted Airmen to attend RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot training, marking the first time since World War II enlisted Airmen will be behind the stick. The first combined enlisted and officer training course will begin October 2016, with the first enlisted Airmen expected to graduate in 2017.

 The Global Hawk is the most stable remotely piloted aircraft community and presents an opportunity now to integrate enlisted airmen in RPAs to posture the force for future operating environments. Global Hawks are built in part in Moss Point, Miss.; pilot training is a major military activity in the region. (Post)

Sierra Nevada Corp., Mary Esther, Fla., was awarded a $23.2 million contract for forward operating location contractor logistic support. Contractor will perform 30-45 day excursions at forward operating locations in Afghanistan. Work will be performed at forward operating locations, Afghanistan, and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2017. … Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $28.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for hardware kits in support of the Phalanx Close-In-Weapon-System program. Work will be performed in Forest, Miss. (50 percent); Dallas, Texas (28 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (13 percent), and Andover, Mass. (9 percent), and is expected to be completed by February 2018.