Saturday, January 13, 2018

Week in review (1/7 to 1/13)

Will we have a spaceport in Hancock County, Miss.?

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission has commissioned RS&H Inc. to study the feasibility of obtaining a Launch Site Operator License that could open the door to commercial space flight at Stennis International Airport in Kiln, Miss.

The airport is just outside NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, the nation's largest rocket engine test facility and home to some 40 federal, state and commercial companies, including Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce uses the airport to transport the jetliner engines it tests at Stennis Space Center.

The Federal Aviation Administration has developed regulations that enable airports to host operations of reusable launch vehicles that take off and land like aircraft. Several kinds of such vehicles are currently under development.

Bill Cork, CEO of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, said the commercial space industry is “poised for dynamic growth, and Hancock County is uniquely positioned to benefit from this growth.” (Post)

Speaking of space, a secret spacecraft launched by a SpaceX rocket last weekend failed to enter a stable orbit and was lost. The spacecraft, called Zuma, launched Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, apparently did not separate as it was supposed to from the upper stage of the rocket.

The payload is classified and built by Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company. It was not clear if the failure was due to problems with the SpaceX rocket or with the Zuma spacecraft. SpaceX, which is developing its next-generation Raptor engine at Stennis Space Center, Miss., said the rocket performed as designed. (Post)

Although the satellite was lost, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket made a success vertical touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral. It landed less than 8 minutes after taking off. SpaceX now has 21 successful first stage returns, part of its plan to develop reusable rockets. (Post)

-- NASA is looking to small businesses and research institutions for innovative technologies that could have significant potential for successful transition into NASA mission programs and other commercial markets.

This year, through NASA's Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I solicitation, proposals for research, development and technology demonstrations can be submitted until March 9, 2018, 4 p.m. CST. (Post)

Economic development
The beat goes on with attempts to land additional aerospace activities.

Florida's The Bay County Economic Development Alliance is working on 25 projects for 2018. Six of those projects may be announced within the first quarter of the new year, according to EDA President Becca Hardin.

Among the six is Project G-Force, which involves an aviation manufacturing company in the process of deciding to locate in Bay County or one other site. Hardin expects a decision on the $20 million project by the end of January. Another, called Project SoHo, is at the airport campus and would represent a $25 million investment. (Post)

Personnel from the 41st Aerial Port Squadron of Savannah, Ga., and other units from the Air Force, Army and Navy teamed up for a joint training exercise that ended last weekend at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., and the Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in Gulfport, Miss.

The primary goal of GRIP III Breaking Barriers was to give reservists and military members an opportunity to train with aircraft, personnel, and equipment that they don't regularly encounter in everyday training. The 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group at the CRTC provided UH-60 helicopters to ferry personnel between Keesler and the CRTC, simulating transportation between forward operating bases. The Navy Special Boat Team 22 from Stennis Space Center, Miss., provided a riverine command boat, rigid inflatable boats and trailers to allow personnel to practice loading and off-loading. (Post)

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