1 week ago

Alabama’s ULA submits proposal for Air Force launch competition; Vulcan Centaur rocket on schedule for 2021 first flight

United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Monday announced that the company has submitted its proposal to the U.S. Air Force for the second phase of the national security space launch program known as the ‘Launch Service Procurement’ competition.

This program is heavily supported by Alabama’s aerospace industry and is widely seen as a critical national security initiative that will also end reliance on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine.

ULA was among the three American companies awarded the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for national security space missions under the first phase of the program.

The Air Force nearly one year ago awarded the three Launch Services Agreements for public-private partnerships to develop launch vehicles from this initial stage of the competition.

Now, Phase 2 is the next procurement in the Air Force’s strategy.

The Department of Defense’s selection process was designed to not only ensure a smooth transition to a U.S. engine, but additionally introduce competition, drive down costs and safeguard continued assured access to space by preventing any capability gaps.

For Phase 2, this means cutting down from three companies to two.

On Monday, ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno confirmed that the Vulcan Centaur has officially been submitted as the company’s proposal for this next competition phase.

At ULA’s factory in Decatur, production of the first Vulcan Centaur rocket continues, with shipment to the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida scheduled for late next year for processing in preparation for its first launch in 2021.

“Atlas and Delta rockets have been the backbone of national security space launch for decades, building on a progressive history of technology development and advancement — Vulcan Centaur will advance this rich heritage,” Bruno said in a statement.

His announcement followed yet another successful launch by a ULA Atlas V rocket for the Air Force last week. This rocket was also assembled at ULA’s Decatur manufacturing plant, which — at 1.6 million square feet — is the largest such facility in the western hemisphere.

“Following the successful launch of our 134th mission just last week on our Atlas rocket, we submitted our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur rocket for the U.S. Air Force’s Phase 2 Launch Services competition,” Bruno added. “It is so exciting to see the first flight vehicle coming together at our factory.”

‘Flight proven design’

ULA has an annual economic impact to Alabama of approximately $285 million.

However, Bruno has previously told Yellowhammer News that the Phase 1 award, under the Launch Services Agreement, is elevating the importance of ULA’s Yellowhammer State operation even higher.

“It’s a big shot in the arm, an increase in our confidence to know that we’re developing the right rocket that the national security community and the Air Force want to carry out the mission,” Bruno outlined. “They tell us that unambiguously when they make the award to us. And so we have plowed ahead. We have invested heavily in the Decatur factory bringing it all up to state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques.”

The Vulcan Centaur rocket will afford Alabamians the opportunity to leave an indelible mark on America’s national security effort for years to come.

“Vulcan is really purpose-built for that set of missions that are going to be needed for national security space in the future,” Bruno explained.

He added that Vulcan represents a “giant leap up in performance.”

It should be noted that as part of its strategy to lower risk and increase chances of success on its first flight in 2021, the company has already started bringing major parts of Vulcan into its Atlas program.

Vulcan’s payload faring, solid rocket boosters, avionics and computer systems will all fly on Atlas, first. Only the Blue Origin BE-4 engines will be new when Vulcan launches.

“When Vulcan flies for the first time, it’s not really flying for the first time,” Bruno advised.

On Monday, Bruno said this proven performance will pay off in a big way for the country.

“The nation is facing a contested space environment, and we are unleashing the energy of American ingenuity by developing Vulcan Centaur to meet our nation’s need for expanding space missions,” Bruno emphasized. “Vulcan Centaur’s flight-proven design, coupled with innovative technology, is transforming the future of space launch and will advance America’s superiority in space.”

ULA is the nation’s only full-range national security space launch provider and is the most experienced, with 100% mission success on its now-134 launches.

“Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability and orbital accuracy precision from our treasured cryogenic Centaur upper stage,” Bruno commented.

Additionally, ULA and the heritage companies are the nation’s only firms who have ever flown the Category C heavy-class national security missions, thus providing the country with the highest possible confidence of continued low-risk mission performance.

“ULA is the best partner for national security space launch, and we are the only provider to demonstrate experience flying to all orbits including the most challenging heavy-class missions, providing the bedrock foundation for the lowest risk portfolio of two launch service providers for the U.S. Air Force,” Bruno concluded.

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

2019 Yellowhammer ‘News Shapers’ series continues with second rural broadband installment

Join the Yellowhammer News team Tuesday, September 24 for a “Yellowhammer News Shapers” event in Dothan.

Entitled, “Connecting Alabama’s rural communities,” the event is Yellowhammer’s second on rural broadband this year. This latest installment will focus on building partnerships and community awareness.

The event will feature a networking reception followed by a live forum on expanding broadband access and technology across the Yellowhammer State.

Confirmed forum panelists include State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva); Brad Kimbro, CEO of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative; Jimmy Copeland, director of special projects for Troy Cablevision, Inc.; Dr. Carmen Lewis, associate dean of Troy University’s Sorrell College; and Sean Strickler, vice president public affairs of the Alabama Rural Electric Association.  

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Areas of focus will include exploring partnerships that work, implementation obstacles and best practices, community awareness and future needs and next steps for program advancement.

The event will be held in Everett Hall on Troy University’s Dothan campus: 502 University Drive, Dothan, AL 36303.

The reception will begin at 5:00 p.m., with the moderated forum to follow at 5:20 p.m.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please contact courtney@yellowhammernews.com for more information.

The legislative edition of Yellowhammer News Shapers kicked off 2019’s series and was followed by the rural broadband edition on July 18 in Guntersville, “Prepare for Launch” in Huntsville on July 31 and “West Alabama and the coal industry” on August 8 in Jasper.

More Yellowhammer News Shapers events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

34 mins ago

Limestone County sheriff’s attorney blasts ‘draconian’ ethics act after indictment

After it was announced on Thursday that longtime Limestone County Sheriff Michael Anthony “Mike” Blakely has been indicted on 13 state ethics counts, separate press conferences featuring his personal attorneys and the spokesperson for the sheriff’s department pumped the breaks on those looking to equate Blakely merely being charged with actually being guilty.

First, Mark McDaniel, the lead attorney for Blakely’s defense, emphasized that the sheriff would be entering in a plea of “not guilty” on all counts and looks forward to trying the case in a court of his peers.

WHNT carried McDaniel’s comments to the media, in which he emphasized that a large part of the defense will be challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s ethics statute.

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“Virtually anything you do as a public servant now under that act is illegal, so we’ll be contesting the constitutionality of the ethics act also,” McDaniel said.

He called the ethics act “draconian” and added he will file a motion asking the court to strike it down.

Asked what about the ethics act they will be challenging, McDaniel responded, “A lot of things.”

McDaniel specified that one of those things will be how overly “broad” the statute is.

“You don’t even know what you’ve done [wrong],” he added, saying that the public should stay tuned to see their motions “attacking” the ethics act’s issues.

In a press conference shortly afterwards, Limestone County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Stephen Young stressed that Blakely continues to serve as the sheriff and that the department’s operations will not be affected by the ongoing legal situation.

Young also cautioned people about utilizing indictments as indicators of guilt.

“A grand jury indictment is not a conviction,” Young advised. “In fact, it’s the process typically used when an agency cannot obtain enough probable cause to obtain its own warrant. As Sheriff Blakely once told me, ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.’”

Watch:

Blakely served in the U.S. Marine Corps and as an Alabama State Trooper before becoming the county sheriff in 1983. He has also served as an officer in the Alabama National Guard.

McDaniel said it is an “honor” to represent the sheriff and that he is “proud” to defend Blakely against the charges.

The attorney noted that Blakely “absolutely” intended to continue serving. The sheriff was back at work immediately after posting bond on Thursday.

A Democrat, Blakely is the longest-serving sheriff in state history. He won the statewide “Bobby Timmons Sheriff of the Year Award” as recently as 2017.

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

3 hours ago

Alabama postpones 50th anniversary tour over singer’s health

Country band Alabama says it is postponing the remainder of its 50th anniversary tour as lead singer Randy Owen battles health complications.

The group announced Wednesday that the 69-year-old Owen is suffering from migraines and vertigo, and doctors say he needs more time to recover.

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The news comes after a string of already-canceled shows due to the singer’s health.

Bass player and vocalist Teddy Gentry wrote in a statement that though he and the rest of the band are disappointed, Owen’s recovery is the priority.

The 50-city tour was scheduled through Nov. 23, where it would have ended in Salisbury, Maryland.

Rescheduled dates will be released in the coming weeks.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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How Alabama’s Iron Tribe Fitness sets the standard for group workouts

Iron Tribe Fitness, founded in Birmingham, Alabama, is leading the way for workout programs across the nation. Ranked as one of the top five workouts in the nation, this 45-minute HIIT group workout class offers participants exciting and effective workouts in a time frame that works with any kind of schedule.

Recently, the gym hosted Coach 201, a weekend training session for their instructors in their downtown Birmingham corporate location. This session brought together all of Iron Tribe’s local coaching staff to review training guidelines and program goals.

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In hosting this training, Iron Tribe is living out their core value of delivering a consistent experience. Forrest Walden, Iron Tribe’s founder and CEO says this training session taps into the heart of what the program does — which is creating communities that change lives.

“It’s always great to see the entire team come together to fellowship and dive deep into why we do what we do every day,” Walden said.

During the training, Iron Tribe coaches were given the opportunity to learn more about the classes they teach and strengthen their relationships with each other. As a result, the coaches are empowered to return to their home gyms and lead their athletes with renewed skills and confidence.

“Kyle Sottung, our director of product development, is extremely thorough and talented at what he does. To see him lead our Birmingham coaches is always such a blessing. Our coaches are more empowered now than ever to pour into the Birmingham community,” Walden stated.

According to Walden, Iron Tribe is successful because the program is more than just a workout, but a way to strengthen the communities they serve.

“Iron Tribe stands on a list off essential core beliefs. These beliefs steer what we do every day, both inside and outside the gym. It’s our hope that by continuing to develop ourselves that we can be exceptional coaches and role models within our communities,” Walden said.

Ready to get in the best shape of your life? Learn more by visiting irontribefitness.com.

3 hours ago

Limestone County sheriff indicted, arrested on 13 financial theft, ethics charges

Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday announced that Limestone County Sheriff Michael Anthony Blakely has been indicted and arrested on several ethics charges.

Blakely, 68, surrendered to authorities and was later released on a $49,000 bond, according to the attorney general’s office.

The indictment includes 13 charges that cover a range of conduct over multiple years.

“Public officials are entrusted to perform their duties honestly and above reproach,” Marshall said in a statement. “When that bond of trust is broken, our society suffers undue harm. My office—working with our federal and state partners—is committed to ensuring that the violators of the public trust be held accountable under the law.”

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Specifically, the first four counts charge Blakely with four separate thefts from his campaign account that total $11,000.

Counts five through 10 charge him with theft or ethics charges stemming from his illegally taking money from Limestone County funds, including from the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Fund.

Count 11 charges Blakely with soliciting a $1,000 wire transfer from a subordinate other than in the ordinary course of business.

Finally, counts 12 and 13 charge the sheriff with using his official position or office to acquire interest-free loans. Count 12 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans in the form of a $50,000 cashier’s check and/or a $22,189.68 credit. Count 13 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans by taking money from a safe that was used to store the Limestone County inmates’ personal funds.

“I would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its investigative assistance in this case,” Marshall added. “Anyone with information regarding corrupt practices by public officials is encouraged to contact the Alabama Attorney General’s Office at reportcorruption@ago.state.al.us.”

The case is being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s Special Prosecutions Division.

“While the overwhelming majority of public officials serve honorably, those who corrupt the operations of government rob their communities—their friends and neighbors—of the fundamental right to honest government, and we must insist on absolute honesty, integrity and trustworthiness from everyone,” FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. commented.

“I want the citizens of north Alabama to know that if they have information about potential wrongdoing by a public official or law enforcement officer, the FBI wants to hear from you,” he advised. “If you have information, call my office’s Public Corruption Tip Line at (844) 404-TIPS, share what you know, and join in the fight against corruption.”

Blakely, as is the case with all indictments, is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.

Blakely’s attorneys held a press conference emphasizing that he will plead not guilty to all counts, per WHNT.

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