Sunday, June 24, 2018

Week in review (6/17 to 6/23)

Do we really need another military branch – a U.S. Space Force – or is it more cost-effective to look at improving what we already have?

Of course, new branches have been created before. The Air Force was created in 1947, when the Army Air Corps was split off to create a new military branch. The Air Force itself already has its own Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Created in 1982, the command has operations worldwide, including the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base. The squadron has a powerful radar system that has been keeping an eye on space for well over 40 years.

A side note here. The C-6 site at Eglin is highlighted on page 43 of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2017-2018 reference book. You can get the PDF of Chapter II, Space Activities, by clicking here. The item on C-6 is on page 43 in the book, but the last page of this 11-page chapter.

Adding another branch will mean more bureaucracy, an entire chain of command of its own, and a decision will have to be made whether to spread the defense dollars to take into account an additional branch or, as I suspect, put even more dollars into the Department of Defense.

And consider this: In addition to the Space Command, we already have the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that focuses on space. True, its mission is not military, but how long before some of that expertise is shifted over to a new military branch?

Although President Trump has instructed the Pentagon to explore establishing a new military branch, it can't be done without the approval of Congress. So stay tuned. We'll be keeping an eye on this.

-- While we’re on the subject of space, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, Calif., was awarded a $69.8 million modification to a previously awarded other transaction agreement for the development of the AR1 booster engine and the RL10CX upper stage engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

This action implements Section 1604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches.

Work will be performed in Canoga Park; Sacramento, Calif.; Centennial, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. The work on the AR1 is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, and the work on the RL10CX is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is the contracting activity. (Post)

-- In another space-related item during the week, BWX Technologies Inc. opened an office in Huntsville, Ala., and will begin developing aerospace products that include a nuclear propulsion system.

The company has a contract with NASA to create conceptual designs for a nuclear thermal reactor that could power a spaceship to Mars. BWX Technologies was created through the breakup of the power company Babcock and Wilcox. It is headquartered in Lynchburg, Va.

The company's Huntsville site director is Gene Goldman, a former director of NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi and acting center director at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville. Goldman presented a $5,000 check from the company to help develop the planned Alabama Cyber and Engineering School in Huntsville at the ceremony. MSFC oversees SSC, NASA’s primary rocket engine testing center. (Post)

The inaugural Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference will be held at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa this week.

It brings together suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, aerospace companies, financiers and investors, with an emphasis on building for the future.

Topics at the conference will include the Airbus Final Assembly Line, CSeries program and final assembly line, developing aerospace clusters in the Southeast, the evolving aerospace cluster in Mobile and more. (Post)

The Navy’s unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout began a new series of operational testing this month aboard the USS Coronado (LCS 4) off the coast of San Diego. The operations are a continuation of MQ-8C operational testing that began in April.

This phase of testing is for the MQ-8C's ability to operate concurrently with other airborne assets and Littoral Combat Ships. The enhanced capability will provide commanders an improved and integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance picture.

During Coronado's 2016-17 deployment to the Western Pacific, it successfully used an MQ-8B Fire Scout – a smaller version of the Fire Scout – as a sensor to strike a target beyond visual range using a Harpoon surface-to-surface missile.

Also last year, the MQ-8C had its first launch from the deck of an LCS underway.

Final assembly work for the Fire Scout is done by Northrop Grumman in Moss Point, Miss. LCS 4 was built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. (Post)

A study on the feasibility of moving passenger flights from Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the Downtown Mobile Airport at the Mobile Aeroplex showed it would be beneficial, but could take three to five years to complete.

The Mobile Airport Authority, which oversees Mobile Regional Airport and Mobile Aeroplex, launched the study in February and released results Wednesday morning. The hope is that by moving commercial air service closer to downtown and right off of Interstate 10, there will be more travelers and eventually more carriers, which in turn will lower to cost of flying.

MAA Executive Director Chris Curry said 47 percent of travelers who might be expected to use Mobile go to competing airports. Curry said accommodating passenger traffic without inconveniencing the Aeroplex’s industrial aviation tenants will require a balancing act, but the challenge can be managed. (Post)

At Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Navy Cmdr. Zachariah Aperauch turned over command of Training Squadron TWO (VT-2) to Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Jackson during a change of command ceremony at the Whiting Field North Field hangar.

Under Aperauch, VT-2 flew more than 52,500 flight hours in the completion of more than 23,350 sorties, and 619 students completed the primary flight training. Jackson assumes command after a tour as executive officer of VT-2. He has 22 years with the Coast Guard, and earned his wings in 1999 after completing primary flight training with VT-2. Navy Cmdr. Wesley Barnes replaces Jackson as executive officer for the squadron. (Post)

Orocon-Carothers JV2, Oxford, Miss.; Whitesell-Green Inc., Pensacola, Fla.; The ARTEC Group Inc., Sarasota, Fla.; Desbuild Inc., Hyattsville, Md.; Southeast Cherokee Construction Inc., Montgomery, Ala.; Leebcor Services LLC, Williamsburg, Va.; and Howard W. Pence Inc., Elizabethtown, Ky., were awarded a $75 million construction contract for design-build construction projects at various locations within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed provides for, but is not limited to, new construction, repair, alteration, and related demolition work. After award of this modification, the maximum dollar value for all seven contracts combined will be $174 million. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Florida, is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $175.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification provides for the development, testing, and activation of 13 different F-35 component repair capabilities in support of the F-35 Lightning depot implementation plan for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and non-Department of Defense (DoD) participants. 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.

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