Space milestones; corporate moves
I must admit, I was not too happy some years back when the Obama administration
canceled the Constellation program and opted to provide more funding to private
companies that wanted to take over some of NASA’s previous missions. I was raised
in an era where it was NASA that led us to being the world’s leading space nation.
But I was wrong.
What has happened since that time is a new space race that involves private
companies, and a growing space economy. It has been exciting.
In a milestone for the United States and commercial space companies, a Falcon 9
rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., May 30 lifting a Dragon capsule
with two NASA astronauts for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.
It marked the first time astronauts have been sent to space from U.S. soil in nine
years, when the Space Shuttle program ended.
The mission is the most notable part to date of NASA’s plan to allow commercial
companies to take its astronauts into low-Earth orbit.
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Belhnken launched from pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. ET
and docked at the ISS 19 hours later.
And that’s just one aspect of what’s happening. SpaceX has also proven that the
rockets that lift the space vehicle can be reused, a move that lowers the cost
dramatically. Other companies are also doing some unique things, like Relativity
Space (see page 3), which is utilizing 3D print technology to build rockets - another
And unlike what I feared, NASA is still very much in the game. NASA resumed Green
Run testing activities in mid-May on the first flight stage of its Space Launch System
(SLS) rocket, with the return of limited crews to perform work at Stennis Space
Center (SSC), Miss.
Because of the pandemic, SSC moved to Stage 4 on March 20, with only personnel
needed to perform mission-essential activities related to the safety and security of
the center allowed on site. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
and its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which are building SLS, also went
to Stage 4.
Re-establishing, or “waking up,” the SSC B-2 Test Stand systems included restoring
facility power and controls, as well as ensuring pressurized gas systems are at
proper levels for SLS operators to proceed with testing.
According to Julie Bassler, SLS stages project manager responsible for the core
stage work at SSC, Michoud and Marshall, Marshall also resumedcritical flight
software and hardware testing.
SSC will eventually increase to on-site work with the idea of shifting to preparing for
the avionics power-up test – the next in a series of core stage Green Run testing
According to Robinson, it’s too early to calculate a precise schedule for the various
test milestones. Green Run represents the first top-to-bottom integrated test of all
flight core stage systems prior to its maiden Artemis I flight.
All testing will be conducted on the B-2 Test Stand in the coming months and will
culminate with an eight-minute, full-duration hot fire of the core stage with its four RS-
25 engines, as during an actual launch.
Boeing in late April terminated its $4.2 billion deal with Brazilian aircraft maker
Embraer. The deal would have given Boeing a bigger stake in the market for smaller
jets, allowing it to compete with Airbus and its A220 (see page 1).
That’s led to at least one change at Embraer. The company June 15 said that the
head of the Embraer aviation unit, John Slattery, is leaving to become chief executive
of engine-maker GE Aviation. Slattery championed the Boeing-Embraer deal and was
to become a Boeing executive in charge of the program once the deal closed.
The two companies had planned to create a joint venture by April 24, but the
deadline passed without Embraer satisfying the necessary conditions, according to
The Brazilian company said it believes it fully satisfied the deal's conditions.
Since then, there have been reports indicating Embraer is reintegrating the aviation
unit, along with reports that other companies are now looking to working with Embraer’
s aviation unit. Some reports indicate interest by companies in China, Russia and
The Boeing-Embraer deal was in response to the Airbus-Bombardier deal, where
Airbus took a majority share in a joint project to build what is now called the A220
The pandemic certainly has been a blow to business, and one of the victims is
Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, the former Star Aviation, which has closed down
and will not reopen, resulting in the loss of about 80 jobs.
The company launched in Mobile, Ala., in 1999, was acquired by Carlisle in 2016.
Star specialized in in-flight entertainment and connectivity.
In 2015, Star announced plans to invest $2.35 million to build a new manufacturing
space at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, adding 24,000 square feet and as many as
50 jobs to the 18,000 square feet and 85 employees it already had there.
At the time, the company also employed about 45 people in Seattle. Scott Selbach,
general counsel for Carlisle Companies Inc., said that the company was shutting
down the former Star Aviation facility in what expected to be a permanent move. The
last day of manufacturing was May 29.
The University of Florida Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering announced
establishment of its second Innovation Station, UFIS at the REEF.
The new engineering extension program in Northwest Florida near Eglin Air Force
Base will leverage the infrastructure and resources afforded by the UF Research and
Engineering Education Facility (REEF) while providing further expansion of
community outreach and workforce development to Eglin and surrounding community.
Established in 2016, UF Innovation Stations (UFIS) are regionally based locations
dedicated to driving economic and workforce development. They are designed to
meet the university’s goal of serving its land grant mission by providing measurable
impact to Florida’s tech economy through access to UF talent, technology,
infrastructure, and students.
REEF, which opened its campus in Shalimar, Fla., in October 1995, will continue to
provide support for the graduate education needs of the Eglin community in concert
with UFIS. REEF will also continue to respond to Air Force research needs and
opportunities through collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory.
It was announced in mid-April that airports along the Gulf Coast are receiving grants
from U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to
help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes $10
billion in funds to be awarded as economic relief to eligible U.S. airports affected by
the prevention of, preparation for, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commercial airports in the region getting money are Mobile Regional Airport, $15.1
million, and Mobile Downtown Airport, $69,000, both in Alabama. In Northwest
Florida, Destin-Fort Walton Beach is getting $12.4 million, Pensacola International
Airport is getting $11 million, and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is
getting $6.3 million. In Louisiana, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International is
receiving $42.8 million and Lakefront in New Orleans is getting $157,000. Gulfport
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi is getting $21 million.
The commander of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., put the base on a short “safety
pause” in May after the crash of two fifth-generation fighter jets within days of one
An F-22 crashed on Eglin’s test and training range during a training flight. Four
days later an F-35 crashed on the base’s air field. Both pilots safely ejected without
Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, commander of the 96th Test Wing, said the base needs to
turn its attention to improving safety. He ordered commanders at all levels to conduct
a “virtual safety day” in reflection of the pandemic.
Cain also asked the wing’s safety office to prepare a safety briefing to be used
across the base. Cain said the investigations into both accidents are still in their early
Two active-duty Navy pilots were killed in a private plane crash in Alabama July 10
on their way back to Pensacola, Fla.
Navy Capt. Vincent Segars and Navy Cmdr. Joshua Fuller died in the crash of the
PA-32 that happened just before 5 p.m. two miles from Selma's Craig Field.
Segars was the Commanding Officer, Naval Aviation Schools Command at Naval Air
Navy Capt. Nate Schneider, who commanded the school that develops aviation
technical training, was removed from his job in late April as commander of the Center
for Naval Aviation Technical Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the head of Naval Education and Training Command, lost
confidence in Schneider's ability to lead in the wake of an investigation into
Schneider enlisted in the Navy in 1981 and later became an officer through the
Enlisted Commissioning Program. He assumed command of the Center for Naval
Aviation Technical Training in November 2018. Capt. Bryant Hepstall, the center’s
executive officer, has taken command.
A 25-year Air Force officer became the first woman to take command of the 1st
Special Operations Wing in June 6 ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., headquarters of
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
The 1st Special Operations Wing is the most-deployed wing in the Air Force, and as
commander of the wing, Col. Jocelyn J. Schermerhorn will also serve as the
installation commander at Hurlburt Field.
In a previous milestone for Air Force Special Operations Command, Brig. Gen.
Brenda Cartier last year became the first female within AFSOC to be promoted to
- David Tortorano