Saturday, December 30, 2017

Week in review (12/24 to 12/30)

This is the time of year when folks are inclined to reflect on the year that's wrapping up, and I'm no different. We certainly had a lot of noteworthy aerospace-related events along the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, all underscoring that this region is a hot spot for aerospace and aviation.

Of course, we have a long history in the field, but it's been getting more attention in recent years. Aerospace and aviation are two of the most research-intensive fields, and the folks who toil away in the field are paid well. It includes a wide range of jobs, from scientists and engineers to janitors and ticketing agents. It involves the government and commercial companies, and involves some of the hottest fields anywhere, including unmanned systems and commercial space exploration.

In this rather cursory look at the highlights of 2017, keep in mind I'm not touching on everything – not by a long shot. If you have the time and inclination, go to the aerospace news feed and in the left column you'll see "blog archive." There were 403 news items posted in 2017. Click on each month and you'll be able to see every headline for the brief posted during the year – as well as previous years going back to 2008.

Interested in what happened before this news blog was launched in 2008? On the home page of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, click on "news" and then go to "archives." You can find news items going back to 2005.

So, here are the highlights of 2017:

The 50th Alabama-built passenger jet was delivered in December to Delta Air Lines, and orders continue to come in for popular A320 family of Airbus jets. What might have been the most stunning news was word that a new assembly line might be coming to Mobile to build Bombardier C Series jets. A lot of hurdles are still in front of the project, but what an endorsement for the work being done in Mobile. By the way, in January the Airbus Engineering Center marked 10 years in Mobile.

Over in Mississippi, NASA's Stennis Space Center has made it clear it's interested in creating a research park near the center. Some of what's being called Enterprise Park will be inside SSC and some will be outside, a feature that will make it easier for companies that want to be near SSC but don't want to go through the tight security requirements within the gates.

Anyone who knows me knows I've been a big advocate of research/technology parks. It's a magnet that draws the best and the brightest. There are plenty of examples of the benefit of this kind of approach - just look at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Ala.

SSC during the year also continued testing the RS-25 engine that will power the first stage of NASA's Space Launch System, which will take astronauts into deep space. And it's not just NASA that's involved in the field. Several commercial space companies during 2017 decided to use SSC for rocket engine development. Relativity Space started testing its liquid oxygen/liquid methane engine at SSC. In addition, Stratolaunch signed an agreement with NASA to use the E1 test stand at SSC to test rocket engines.

Before all that, in May, Aerojet Rocketdyne was selected to build the main propulsion system for a reusable hypersonic aircraft, the XS-1, being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and Boeing. Aerojet Rocketdyne will conduct assembly and ground testing work at SSC for the XS-1, part of DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane program. Aerojet Rocketdyne also is using SSC to conduct testing for its AR1 rocket engine, being developed to replace the Russian-made RD-180.

Companies not involved in space were also expanding in the Gulf Coast region during the year. In Alabama's Baldwin County, UTC Foley opened a new nacelles assembly facility. Across the bay in Mobile County, Safran is opening at new facility at the Mobile Aeroplex for its nacelles work.

Global aircraft supplier GKN Aerospace decided during the year to locate an assembly plant near Panama City, Fla., at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Earlier, in May, Northrop Grumman said its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., is expanding its workload to include subassembly work for the F-35.

At Eglin Air Force Base, the 96th Cyberspace Test Group was activated late in the year. To the east of Eglin near Panama City, Tyndall Air Force Base was chosen for an MQ-9 Wing, also late in the year.

Speaking of drones, Mississippi State University in Starkville was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security as a base of operations for drone research. Much of the work on how to best to use the devices will be done in South Mississippi, including Camp Shelby, Stennis Space Center, and Singing River Island in Jackson County.

That's a quick look at the highlights. If you want to read beyond the headlines and briefs, you can read more in-depth stories in our bimonthly aerospace newsletter. You can look at all the stories from 2017 in our newsletter archive. The 2017 newsletters begin with Vol. IV (February) and end with Vol. V (December).

Now for your week in review:

Chief Master Sgt. Michael West, a Special Tactics operator with the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the nation's third highest medal for valor against an enemy of the United States.

West was awarded the medal on Dec. 15 for his actions during the five-day Operation MEDUSA in 2006. West utilized 58 coalition aircraft to deliver 24,000 pounds of precision ordnance to eliminate more than 500 enemy forces, securing the safety of 51 U.S. Spec Ops forces, and 33 coalition partners.

West was originally awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions in May 2007, but due to a recent DOD-wide review, his package was resubmitted for an upgrade. (Post)

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded $255.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the Lot 3 low-rate initial production of three MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft, trade studies and tooling in support of the Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office. Moss Point, Miss., will do 4.2 percent of the work. Work is expected to be completed in December 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $25.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for special tooling and test equipment, for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Lots 28-30 production. Work will be performed in Tucson with an expected completion date of Dec. 31, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $634.2 million contract for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) production Lot 31. The contract is for the production of the AMRAAM missile and other AMRAAM system items. Work will be performed at Tucson with an expected completion date of Jan. 31, 2020. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.

No comments:

Post a Comment