1 year ago

4 key reasons Alabama’s ‘Rocket City’ is best pick for Space Command HQ

Huntsville is in the running to be the headquarters of the new U.S. Space Command, a move that is a natural fit for Alabama’s Rocket City and its longtime support of space and defense programs.

Goals of the new command are to better organize and advance the military’s extensive operations in space and to seek more effective ways to protect U.S. assets such as satellites that are crucial for communications, navigation and surveillance.

“When you think of space, you think of Huntsville, the birthplace of the rockets that put man on the moon and a huge hub for ongoing innovation and space exploration,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “At the same time, the city is deeply rooted and invested in the security of our nation, and for decades has been at the forefront of safeguarding U.S. interests around the world.

“There could not be a better or more fitting location to lead the important mission of the U.S. Space Command than Huntsville, Alabama,” Secretary Canfield said.

Five other sites – four in Colorado and one in California – also are finalists for the headquarters, but here are four key reasons why Huntsville tops them all.

No. 1: PROXIMITY TO KEY INFRASTRUCTURE

Huntsville is home to Redstone Arsenal, which has been the center of the U.S. Army’s missile and rocket programs for more than 50 years.

The nation’s first ballistic missile was developed at Redstone, and it is the current site of a number of military organizations, including the Army’s Aviation and Missile Command, Space and Missile Defense Command, and the Missile Defense Agency.

Also located at Redstone is NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which designed the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo program moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s.

Marshall has continued to lead the way in human space exploration, developing new rocket engines and tanks for the Space Shuttle fleet, building sections of the International Space Station and now managing the science work done by astronauts onboard the ISS.

NASA’s Space Launch System, an advanced launch vehicle that will provide the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit, is designed, developed and managed by Marshall.

NASA has turned to Marshall to lead its Human Landing System Program for the return to the Moon.

No. 2: PRESENCE OF MAJOR PLAYERS

With such a rich history of success, Huntsville has been an attractive location for defense contractors and other private firms doing business with the government.

Boeing, for example, has more than 3,000 employees in the Huntsville area, working in a diverse range of its global businesses.

The company is the prime contractor on the core stage of NASA’s SLS, and local employees also are heavily involved in the development of rockets, missiles and weapons systems.

Other major industry players have a significant presence in the North Alabama region too, and their ranks continue to grow.

Aerojet RocketdyneBlue Origin and United Launch Alliance are all involved in building the next-generation rockets that will drive future space travel, and breakthrough technologies are also happening elsewhere.

Just last month, Lockheed Martin announced plans to make North Alabama its flagship location for work on hypersonics programs, with a new production facility and almost 275 jobs slated for Huntsville and nearby Courtland.

Hypersonic Strike capabilities have been identified by the U.S. government as a critical capability to be addressed in support of the U.S. National Security Strategy.

No. 3: EXPERTISE AND A PIONEER SPIRIT

More than half a century has passed since Wernher von Braun and his team of German scientists first made their mark on Huntsville with missile and rocket development. But that legacy remains.

Huntsville is loaded with tech talent and regularly wins accolades for a well-trained and highly educated workforce.

Earlier this year, the city was ranked No. 3 in the nation for the most high-tech jobs, according to an analysis of federal labor statistics by 24/7 Wall Street. The only two metros to top Huntsville are in California’s Silicon Valley and in Maryland near Washington D.C.

Huntsville has 15.7 percent of its 222,000-strong working in STEM fields, the analysis shows. The most common STEM job is aerospace engineers, which number nearly 4,000, more than any other major U.S. metro, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The concentration of aerospace engineers in Huntsville is 38 times the national average, the BLS figures show.

Beyond the skill, the city embraces a spirit of innovation reminiscent of those early rocketeers.

There’s a bustling start-up scene, and it’s not just in the defense business.

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a hub of new discoveries in the life sciences field, while the new Invention to Innovation Center (I²C) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is grooming entrepreneurs who specialize in software, electronics, data science and more.

UAH is located in Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park and home to nearly 300 companies.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has called on the Pentagon to choose Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal for the new Space Command headquarters, saying the city is uniquely positioned to protect the nation’s assets and interests in space.

“No one does space and defense better than the brainpower on Redstone Arsenal. The world’s most advanced capabilities in aerospace, space and missile defense, and space exploration are already here,” Battle said.

No. 4: COMMANDING ADVANTAGE

Huntsville’s low-cost environment is another significant plus.

In recent years, Huntsville has attracted major projects from companies ranging from Polaris (off-road vehicles) to Blue Origin (rocket engines). The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA joint venture is constructing a $1.6 billion auto plant where the assembly lines will be named “Apollo” and “Discovery.”

A key reason they all picked Huntsville? The cost of doing business in Alabama’s Rocket City is 32 percent less than the national average, according to the Huntsville Madison County Chamber.

U.S. News & World Report has also picked up on Huntsville’s affordability. In April 2019, the magazine cited Huntsville as the “No. 1 Affordable Place to Live in America” for the second consecutive year.

All of these factors make Huntsville a smart pick for the Space Command HQ.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

21 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne: Timeframe on I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge ‘not unlimited’ — State, local leaders ‘need to do it in the next several months to a year’

Last week, state and local officials in the Mobile and Baldwin County areas had reportedly resumed discussions about a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge.

A now-infamous proposal came to a halt last year after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to remove the bridge from the organization’s Transportation Improvement Program, which resulted in Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) calling it off.

Questions remain about the future. However, according to U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), the clock is ticking if the state wants to use available federal money.

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During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Byrne, who has a little over a month remaining in office until U.S. Rep.-elect Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) is sworn in, said it was up to state and local leaders to agree on how to proceed because the federal component had already been settled.

“The real center of gravity here is with local leaders and state leaders,” he said. “It’s really not federal leaders. Jerry Carl doesn’t have to worry about that money that’s been put out there going away in the next couple of years. It’s still going to be there. This is really off federal government, and really on state and local government.”

“It won’t be there forever,” Byrne added. “Now, it might be enhanced if we get some big infrastructure bill comes out in the next year or so. I still think the onus with coming up with most of the money has got to be on the state and local governments here. The state has a lot of money that it gets from the federal government every year from the national highway fund. And it could bond money. You know, I’ve been saying we should bond some of this [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds] to do it, etc. There is a way to set all this together and make it work. The federal end is done, ready to go. There is state money that can be used for it, that comes from the federal government, including GOMESA money, and there’s a way to put it all together. But it is going to require these local leaders, the new local leaders, working with the governor.”

Byrne urged local and state officials to put a proposal forth within the next year.

“Our timeframe is not unlimited here,” he said. “If they’re going to do something, they need to do it in the next several months to a year — come up with a plan that’s approved, etc. I think the U.S. Department of Transportation will help them to find some way to make this happen because one thing we have accomplished — we’ve got the Department of Transportation, going back to the Obama administration — so it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing — the Department of Transportation has said this is critical for the United States of America. So, we’re teed up with the federal government. We’ve just got to get the state and locals together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

1 hour ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

6 hours ago

Saban to miss Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19, has ‘very mild symptoms’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is set to miss Saturday’s Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and UA Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Jeff Allen made the announcement on Wednesday in a joint statement.

Saban experienced a false positive earlier in the season, but this situation is apparently different.

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“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home,” stated Robinson and Allen.

The Iron Bowl is scheduled to be played in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.

Saban on an SEC teleconference told reporters that he is the only person within the Crimson Tide football program to have tested positive during this latest round of regular testing. The positive result reportedly came from a PCR test.

The legendary coach said he essentially only has a runny nose.

“I feel fine. I don’t really have anything significant. I don’t have a fever,” Saban added.

RELATED: Alabama No. 1, Auburn No. 22 in first College Football Playoff rankings of 2020

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn