Saturday, February 17, 2018

Week in review (2/11 to 2/17)

I had the chance early this week to go to Stennis Space Center, Miss., to participate in a briefing and tour for social media and traditional media folks. I’m actually both, as those of us from the traditional media tend to be today.

I've been to Stennis Space Center (SSC) many times in the past, including visiting the towering stands where rocket engines are tested. But you always see something new, and besides, it's a great refresher for a space buff. I wrote about the test stands in the just-released Gulf Coast Reporters League Aerospace Newsletter. It's on pages 7 and 8.

But the daily post I wrote after the visit was an update on the plans to create a "near-site" research and technology park at SSC. I asked about it during a question-and-answer session with Randy Galloway, deputy director of the NASA rocket engine test facility.

He recapped for everyone else just what I was talking about when I asked about the interest in Enterprise Park. He pointed out that in December NASA opened a search for a non-federal partner to lead in development of the 1,100-acre technology corridor in the first phase of a multi-phase project.

Galloway said it was discussed with interested parties during a Feb. 7 Industry Day event. He said there was a "good bit of interest" in the proposed project in the northwest corner of the "fee area," the name for the area at SSC with all the buildings and test stands. He said at least 16 entities and 58 individuals expressed interest. The park would be allied to the mission at SSC, whether it's the mission of NASA or any of the other more than 40 tenants.

Enterprise Park would be for companies that want to work with NASA or other SSC tenants but who don't want to go through the security measures required to enter SSC, and by the same token don't want to be six or seven miles away. The 1,100 acres, identified as the most development-ready, is on the northern edge of the 13,800-acre secured area and would include property both inside and outside the security perimeter.

It was an important enough development that the deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority attended the Industry Day to learn more. Galloway said some very good companies have expressed interest. The park would be leased to the developer, who would provide all the financing.

So why is this important? Galloway told me later that the obvious answer is economic development, benefiting not only Mississippi but the entire region.

"There are a lot of new companies involved in space," he pointed out about the tremendous growth of commercial space activities. At SSC, which has a huge 125,000-acre buffer zone around the fee area, they can make a lot of noise and not bother anybody. As somebody who once lived in Huntsville, I asked if he sees any parallels between Enterprise Park and Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, the nation’s second largest.

"I would hope that in 10 years we see just a fraction of what Cummings Research Park is today," he said, pointing out that Huntsville is a much bigger entity with a much larger budget authority, including the Army Materiel Command, the primary provider of materiel to the Army. Its mission includes research and development of weapons systems as well as maintenance and parts distribution. "When you have that much budget authority, you get a lot of interest. I don’t know that we'll ever be to that point, but I believe we can have something that's dynamic and appealing and a good source of long-term jobs for this community.”

I couldn't agree more. This is significant for our region.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said during the week that it will proceed with plans to buy some Canadian-made CSeries jets from Bombardier this year after a U.S. trade ruling stopped the United States from imposing steep duties on the aircraft. It will take delivers this year of some of the 75 CSeries jets it ordered in 2016.

Those first jetliners will be made in Quebec. But not all of them will be produced in Canada. Production is set to begin for U.S. customers at an Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala., after the Airbus closes a deal this year to acquire a majority stake in the CSeries program.

"Delta still intends to take as many deliveries as possible from the new Airbus/Bombardier facility in Mobile, Ala., as soon as that facility is up and running," the carrier said.

During the week the International Trade Commission said it rejected the hefty U.S. duties on the CSeries jets earlier this month in part because Boeing had lost no sales or revenue during the Delta deal. (Post)

The February issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters League/Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter is now available. The four-page cover story is about Alabama's considerable aerospace footprint, from Huntsville to Mobile and places in between.

Inside there's a story about a lecture in Pensacola, Fla., that focused on concerns that intelligent systems may one day be a threat to humanity. And as I mentioned earlier in this column, there's also an article about an historic test stand at SSC that next year will test the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System, which will eventually return astronauts to deep space. (Post)

Micro Systems Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded an $81 million contract to acquire and/or repair essential part-numbered components to support the operation and maintenance of all versions of the Army Ground Aerial Target Control System, target interface control units, and associated ancillary equipment. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $14 million modification to a previously issued delivery order placed against a basic ordering agreement. This modification provides for the procurement of initial air vehicle spares to include endurance spares packages to coincide with F-35 air vehicle deliveries in support of the government of Israel. 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. … ASES LLC, doing business as Field Aerospace, Oklahoma City, Okla., was awarded an $18.5 million contract for the T-1A Avionics Modification program. This contract provides for the replacement of the avionics suite in the T-1A fleet of 178 aircraft, 16 operational flight trainers, and 14 part task trainers. Work will be performed in Oklahoma City; Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.. Work is expected to be complete by Aug. 14, 2025. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity.

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