7 months ago

Alabama celebrates Artemis Day as final piece of hardware departs Marshall Space Flight Center for historic mission

Governor Kay Ivey has proclaimed Friday, July 17, as Artemis Day in the state of Alabama, honoring the Yellowhammer State’s incredible contributions to the historic space program that will return Americans to the surface of the moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars.

An official proclamation signed by Ivey earlier this week highlighted Huntsville’s famed contributions to space flight and exploration since last century.

The Rocket City’s signature work is continuing on the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the most powerful rocket in world history scheduled to power Americans back to the moon in 2024 through the Artemis program; the mission will include landing the first woman ever on the lunar surface.

SLS is part of NASA’s new backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway in orbit around the moon. Indeed, it is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Alabama’s aerospace industry has led the effort to build the SLS, which stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

Boeing is the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 engines lead contractor. The SLS program is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center, while Boeing’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division manages the company’s SLS work.

A structural test campaign for the SLS was completed at Marshall in recent weeks.

RELATED: ‘Remarkable’: Marshall Space Flight Center completes largest test campaign since 1990

On Friday, Artemis Day, NASA released videos of the SLS launch vehicle stage adapter being loaded onto a barge en route to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. According to Ivey’s proclamation, this is the final piece of hardware for Artemis I that will depart Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA detailed that the launch vehicle adapter “was produced entirely” at Marshall by Huntsville-based Teledyne Brown Engineering. Ivey also highlighted this in her proclamation.

“The launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was the final piece of Artemis I rocket hardware built exclusively at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” stated Marshall director Jody Singer, a 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact. “This milestone comes as Marshall teams just completed the structural test campaign of the SLS rocket that confirmed the rocket’s structural design is ready for Artemis missions to the Moon.”

“Great to see this. Very fitting on a day that [Governor Ivey] has declared Artemis Day in Alabama!” Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) said in a tweet.

“Alabamians are exceedingly proud of the Space Launch System achievements today, and the advances of tomorrow made possible by upcoming Artemis missions that will continue to demonstrate NASA’s benefit to all humanity,” Ivey’s proclamation concluded.

Artemis I, per NASA, will be the first integrated flight test of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. This will be an uncrewed test flight. Artemis II is slated to be the first crewed flight for the program.

“The primary operations goal of the [Artemis I] mission is to assure a safe crew module entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery. In addition to sending Orion on its journey around the Moon, SLS will carry 13 small satellites that will perform their own science and technology investigations. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II,” NASA explained.

Alabama leads the way

In addition to Alabama spearheading the SLS for the Artemis program, the state is at the forefront of other major components of America’s space exploits.

For example, the Human Landing System (HLS) program, vital to Artemis’ ultimate success, is also managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center. Two of the three companies awarded prime contracts to compete to build the final HLS have Alabama ties.

Huntsville-based Dynetics was named earlier this year as one of these three prime contractors.

The company is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System, a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan launch system.

The next-generation Vulcan rocket is being produced at the sprawling, world-class ULA production facility in Decatur.

Additionally, one of the other prime contractors is Blue Origin, which has proposed a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and the Alabama-built ULA Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin earlier this year officially opened a 350,000-square-foot rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, where it will produce its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine.

North Alabama will additionally play a leading role with the lunar Gateway through Dynetics.

Overall, NASA has publicly highlighted how Marshall Space Flight Center is a pivotal engine behind Artemis and the future of human space exploration. You can read more from the agency on Marshall’s unprecedented contributions here.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Friday, Ivey said, “NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center continues to be at the forefront of technological advancement in support of our country’s space exploration initiatives.”

“The flight of Artemis I symbolizes the hard work of the Alabamians that made this significant accomplishment possible. Alabama is incredibly proud to have a strong partner that regularly showcases what our world class engineers are capable of in NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” she added.

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

10 mins ago

East Alabama’s Russel Medical receives ‘transformational’ $25M gift

Russell Medical, a hospital located in Alexander City that serves a large portion of East Alabama, announced a multi-facility expansion on Thursday that is being made possible by a $25 million gift.

Making the donation to the nonprofit hospital are Ben and Luanne Russell. Ben Russell is the CEO of Russell Lands, the company that has developed much of the area around Lake Martin. His grandfather, affectionately known as “Mr. Ben,” built the famous Russell clothing company.

The gift from the Russells is the largest in the history of Russell Medical. It will provide for the construction of a new large-scale project focused on providing care for the elderly.

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To be built on the hospital’s campus in Alexander City, the Russell Legacy Project will include 26 units of independent living single-family cottages, an assisted living facility with 32 units.

The Russells’ donation will also provide for the construction of the Benjamin Russell Center for Advanced Care, a new project for the hospital that will “provide comprehensive geriatric health care and specialty health care services,” per a release.

“Ben and Luanne’s extraordinary act of generosity reflects a caring family who are great supporters of Alexander City, the Lake Martin area, and the medical community in Alabama. The Russell Legacy Project allows us to grow services centered on the largest sector who are in need of healthcare services, those citizens 65 years and older,” stated Jim Peace, president and CEO of Russell Medical.

In addition to the new facility, the gift from the Russels will create the Benjamin Russell Endowed Chair in Geriatrics, pending approval by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Russel Medical is a member of the UAB Health System.

“Each day for the next 20+ years, approximately 10,000 adults will turn 65, and with this trend, the demand for Geriatricians is expected to skyrocket,” remarked Dr. Cynthia Brown, director for the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care at UAB.

The advanced care facility will be constructed in front of the hospital’s cancer center and will look out onto Highway 280. In addition to its primary focus on elder care, the center will house Women’s Health and other specialty clinics.

“As lifelong residents of Alexander City, Luanne and I have supported the Lake Martin area and this hospital and are pleased to be able to make this gift, honoring my grandfather, Benjamin Russell. Mr. Ben did much for this state and its people. This gift is one way Luanne and I can recognize his contributions,” said Ben Rusell.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 hours ago

7 Things: Alabama State Health Officer says to take any coronavirus vaccine, Alabama Democrats think all protesters are rioters, U.S. Capitol still faces threats and more …

7. Joe Reed: Keep straight-ticket voting in Alabama

  • Democratic Party leader Joe Reed has come out against a piece of legislation that would get rid of straight-ticket voting throughout Alabama. Reed asked that the 24 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who have decided to co-sponsor the bill remove their support.
  • Reed asked the question, “What is wrong with a person voting the straight-ticket?” He added that he doesn’t know of any “harm” straight-ticket voting does to the “Democratic process,” and he focused on how removing straight-ticket voting would ultimately hurt the Democratic Party as it would remove support from candidates with less name ID.

6. $15 minimum wage is out of the coronavirus stimulus bill

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  • Congressional Democrats’ attempts to force a minimum wage hike into a completely unrelated coronavirus stimulus bill were stymied by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian who declared the provision violated budgetary rules.
  • Democrats will now have to gain Republican support for the measure or do it by killing the filibuster, a move they probably can’t pull off. Democrats like U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) are not happy and expressed as such, saying, “I’m sorry — an unelected parliamentarian does not get to deprive 32 million Americans the raise they deserve. This is an advisory, not a ruling. VP Harris needs to disregard and rule a $15 minimum wage in order. We were elected to deliver for the people. It’s time we do our job.”

5. Equality Act passes in Congress, Alabama takes another path

  • With only three Republicans voting for the Equality Act, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in a 224-206 vote. The bill provides protections for those in the LGBTQ+ community in a wide range, including allowing transgender people to participate in their chosen gender’s league for sports.
  • In Alabama, a bill was approved by a House committee that would forbid doctors from using puberty-blocking medications, hormones and surgeries on transgender minors.

4. Legislature taking their time with medical marijuana

  • Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has said that in the House of Representatives, they’re going take their time with the medical marijuana bill by sending it through the Judiciary and Health Committees.
  • McCutcheon said, “We’re going to go through the bill page-by-page.” The medical marijuana bill has already passed the State Senate and has to be passed by the House before Governor Kay Ivey can sign it into law.

3. Threats against the U.S. Capitol ahead of State of the Union

  • It hasn’t been scheduled or announced when President Joe Biden will give his first State of the Union address, but acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman has said that there are credible threats to “blow up” the U.S. Capitol during the address. Pittman said this is why it’s necessary for security measures, like National Guardsman and the barbed wire fence, to stay in place.
  • Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) wants a fair and balanced investigation into the riots at the U.S. Capitol. He will even testify under oath during it, and he may get it after all.

2. Bill targeting rioters is somehow aimed at peaceful protesters

  • The legislation brought by State Representative Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) that would make rioting or inciting a riot a felony has received some backlash from State Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), who claims that the bill will actually target peaceful protesters.
  • Smitherman said that this bill “seeks to take us back 60 years to where we were at that particular time,” referencing the 1960s and 1970s when protestors were arrested. He went on to assert that this bill would lead to those who are protesting being arrested, adding, “We can’t allow to go back 60 years in time to try to oppress people from being able to…speak out.”

1. State Health Officer: Take the coronavirus vaccine made available to you

  • State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is advising that people in Alabama should simply take whichever coronavirus vaccine that’s available to them. This came into question as it’s anticipated that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration soon.
  • Dr. Harris stated, “This is a vaccine that prevents deaths and prevents even serious illness and hospitalization at the exact same rate as the other vaccines,” which doesn’t seem to be true.

5 hours ago

PSC President Cavanaugh: Measures implemented to protect Alabama against Texas-like widespread electric utility failures

Last week, the nation watched as Texas suffered electricity outages during an unprecedented winter storm that wreaked havoc on the Lone Star State.

Could that happen here in Alabama? Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh said although no utility is completely invulnerable, measures have been taken to protect customers.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Cavanaugh elaborated on why Texas and Alabama are uniquely different and why Alabama may have fared differently under similar circumstances.

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“[I] did not know a whole lot about Texas until this started happening,” she said. “Since then, I have studied and tried to make sure we have covered all our bases here in Alabama, and that does not happen. Now, let me give this disclaimer — there is never 100% on any utility. Obviously, there are things utilities must do to be prepared. But there are things that can go wrong no matter how prepared you are. I always give that disclaimer.”

“However, Texas and Alabama are completely different in their setup,” Cavanaugh continued. “Alabama Power is the largest power utility in Alabama, and it is a regulated utility. The other utilities that produce electricity in Alabama are TVA, which is a federal-run utility — it is a quasi-government-run utility in North Alabama. We also have some cities that have their own system. They’re called municipals. And then, there are co-ops in some of your rural areas. In fact, I believe Baldwin County has some co-ops. And so, those are run by their members.”

“We regulate Alabama Power Company, which many of your listeners in Mobile have,” she added. “They are regulated. In Texas, 90% of their power is not regulated. In other words, they are deregulated, is what the industry calls it. And after reading this — I think the easiest way to put this is when you’re regulated, we look at everything as how do we protect the people, or how do we protect the customers. In a non-regulated arena, it is how do you protect the profits of these companies.”

According to Cavanaugh, the difference in governing utilities makes such a scenario that Texas faced less likely in Alabama.

“There’s just a completely different philosophy in the two,” she said. “And one of the things in a regulated environment like Alabama Power Company, we always want to weigh things on how it will affect customers. We do that through — is it reliable for consumers? And is it affordable? They have to present to us, I say, on a monthly basis, but it is actually a continual basis. They are audited. And we ensure they do what it takes to be able to handle the load, no matter what the load problems may be.”

Cavanaugh also explained how that given Texas is on its own grid, which covers 90% of that state, prevents it from bringing power in from other states, which is a protection that exists with Alabama’s electric utilities.

She added that there is also less of an incentive to undergo the expensive effort of winterizing in a deregulated environment like Texas.

@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.

6 hours ago

State Rep. Treadaway on anti-rioting bill: ‘This is not a race thing — This is a law and order thing’

State Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) on Thursday morning interviewed with Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Val Show” regarding his HB 445, which would create new crimes and penalties for individuals who incite or participate in riots.

His interview came the day after State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) took to the Senate floor to lambast the legislation — and those who support it — as wanting to “snatch” up Black Lives Matter protesters and “take us back 60 years.” Smitherman said the legislation was part of a general oppressive movement he compared to the killing of George Floyd.

Treadaway recently retired as Birmingham Police Department assistant chief following a 31-year career on the force; he was on the ground when protesting turned into violent and destructive rioting, looting and arson for one night in the Magic City this past summer. Speaking to co-hosts Matt Murphy and Valerie Vining, Treadaway reiterated his firsthand — and the city’s — experience was the genesis of his bill.

“We all saw what played out across the country last year,” Treadaway said. “And then it came to Birmingham — was actually brought to Birmingham.”

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“So, I’m just going to go over some facts for you real quick just to put a backdrop to this thing,” he outlined. “We know for a fact the night before the protest in Birmingham, folks came in and they planted incendiary devices, gasoline, bricks, and somebody’s funding that. So, there’s a very organized effort going on in this country to keep chaos up. And when they did that, the protesters came in, and — for the most part — our local protesters were peaceful.”

The career law enforcement officer noted that this protest was different than the many peaceful ones he had personally experienced beforehand in the city.

“In this instance, the outsiders that came in to the city of Birmingham were hell-bent on destruction. And that’s a fact,” Treadaway remarked. “Approximately 70 people were arrested. But out of that 70 people, probably 1/3 of them were local.”

He added that most of the locals were arrested for “minor offenses like failure to disperse and things like that.”

“But there was an element that was embedded into those protesters that came into the city of Birmingham and started rioting, started inciting a riot,” he continued. “And when that happened, they went to the shrubbery, the plants, that were around these buildings downtown where they had planted these devices. And they used them to try to destroy the city. Sledgehammers, the incendiary devices, gasoline.”

Treadaway stressed that this factual account was the motivation and basis for the bill.

“And the whole race issue that’s been coming up, I want to talk about that for just a second. Because many of the folks that were arrested from out of town were college-age white kids, OK. And the ones that were bashing windows in. So, this is not a race thing,” he stressed. “This is a law and order thing.”

“I knew when I brought the legislation it would be controversial — with some,” he acknowledged. “But I firmly believe that the masses of Americans — black, brown and white — that they don’t want this (rioting) in their city. They don’t want folks hijacking a cause. And they don’t want them hell-bent on trying to destroy and burn down their city.”

The fourth-term legislator from Jefferson County further highlighted that “law enforcement needs more protection.” He shared that an individual from outside the state was behind the jail the night of the rioting “with a sack full of cash.”

“And why is that? We have a $300 cash bond,” Treadaway explained, outlining that the individual was helping others bond out straight back onto the street to rejoin the rioting. His bill would prevent that by instituting a mandatory hold period for those arrested for rioting or inciting a riot.

“You can’t have a situation where we’re trying to put this type of riot down and people are bonding out and coming back in and joining the fray,” he underlined. “It just doesn’t work.”

Murphy then asked if the Birmingham rioting could have easily resulted in much worse property damage and physical bodily harm.

“There’s no doubt about it, we dodged a bullet,” Treadaway responded. “And then there was those who tried to hang around and reignite the situation.”

He praised the police department’s community policing emphasis for warding off a worse outcome.

“We dodged a bullet that day. They tried to reignite that situation,” he reiterated. “And I think we did a really good job in making sure that that did not happen.”

Treadaway shared that Mobile similarly had a problem with out-of-state people traveling to the city “trying to incite riots there.”

“These folks are sharing information with one another, and when there is a legitimate protest — a peaceful protest — being organized, there’s an element now that’s out there — a criminal element — that’s hell-bent on embedding themselves in those type of causes,” he advised. “That’s just a fact. So, the legislation is an attempt to address some of that.”

He subsequently went on to define what participating in or inciting a riot entails pursuant to HB 445, differentiating those activities from peaceful protesting.

“The First Amendment is something I believe in greatly,” Treadaway reaffirmed.

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

18 hours ago

State legislature recap: Bills on license plate scanners, dogs at restaurants, historic renovation tax credit pass their respective chambers

MONTGOMERY – Both chambers of the Alabama State Legislature met on Thursday for the ninth day of its 2021 regular session.

The Senate met for around 90 minutes in the morning and moved quickly through a limited calendar, much of which was left over after a filibuster prematurely ended the chamber’s Tuesday business.

Most notably, the upper chamber passed a bill regulating the use of license plate scanners by law enforcement, as well as legislation updating the standards required of local school board members.

The House spent much of the day in session, dealing with sunset bills in the morning before passing legislation extending a popular tax credit and a bill allowing dogs to be brought to the outdoor portions of restaurants.

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Alabama Senate

Sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB2 would more closely regulate the use of license plate recognition systems by law enforcement agencies.

It would require that agencies keep confidential all data gathered from the scanners and destroy it after five years. Among other holdings, law enforcement agencies would have to adopt and publicize their policy governing use of the data gathered.

Another impactful bill passed by the upper chamber on Thursday was SB170 from Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile). The legislation would establish a new set of standards, training and discipline for local school board members.

The bill would have the State Board of Education adopt a model code of conduct for school board members. Local boards would be allowed to implement their own codes of conduct, but they would have to include at minimum the standards provided by the state.

Members not following the code of conduct would be subject to censure, sanction and removal from their position.

A similar measure, HB338 sponsored by Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), was considered in the lower chamber on Tuesday. It did not receive a vote after the sponsor asked for it to be carried over following a lengthy debate.

Both SB2 and SB170 were passed unanimously.

The Senate’s full activity from Thursday is accessible here.

Alabama House

After slogging through numerous sunset bills, the first major legislation passed by the House on Tuesday was HB220 from Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

The legislation would shift the authority to build and renovate on the grounds of certain educational institutions from the Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management to the institutions themself. More simply, educational institutions with their own governing boards would have more authority to build or renovate on their respective grounds.

HB 220 passed with a vote of 96-1.

House members also passed an extension of the popular Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. Sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), HB281 would extend the tax credit through 2027 if the bill is enacted. It also passed 96-1.

In one of the chamber’s more genial efforts, a bill to allow pet dogs to accompany their owners at the outdoor dining sections of restaurants passed the House on Thursday.

HB235 from Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) allows the owner of any restaurant to set the establishment’s policy on dogs, but it does overrule some county and city level statutes that prevented any non-service animal from joining their owner for a meal.

Only restaurants whose outdoor space is accessible without walking through the indoor dining area are eligible to allow pets under the proposed law.

A full record of the House’s activity on Thursday is available here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.