The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

11 hours ago

Alabama tech president: Apollo 11 landing gave father his final wish

(NASA/Twitter)

HUNTSVILLE — The successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon 50 years ago to the day is famously known as a “giant leap for mankind.” However, to one Alabamian, it meant the world.

Speaking at the Apollo 11 50th anniversary dinner at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on Tuesday, the anniversary of the launch which was powered by an Alabama-built Saturn V rocket, Teledyne Brown Engineering President Jan Hess shared the emotional story of how much the historic mission’s culmination meant to her and her family.

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Hess, a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, now leads the very Huntsville firm that was the first high-tech company established in the city in the 1950’s to help Dr. Wernher von Braun build the Redstone Rocket, the first large American ballistic missile.

Noting the company’s early work with von Braun, Hess said, “They too believed the impossible was possible.”

She and her eight siblings grew up in the Rocket City, and Hess remembers the Space Race vividly, saying she “grew up hearing amazing things happening at [Redstone] Arsenal.”

“My dad’s excitement about man landing on the Moon was contagious,” she told the crowd on Tuesday. “So much so, that I wrote a series of books — five pages [each], very large print — about an astronaut named ‘Jerry,’ who first visited the Moon and then every planet. I was seven years old. But you see how a seed can be planted. And then another. And then another.”

One of the questions that all speakers were encouraged to answer was where they were when man landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 at 2:17 p.m. CST.

Hess explained why she would never forget the answer to this question for two intertwined reasons.

“I believe my recall is close to perfect,” she emphasized.

“I was ten-years old, and I was watching the landing on TV with my father and my mother and some of my siblings,” Hess recounted. “It was perfectly quiet in the room, except for my mother’s voice, recounting to my father what was being shown and said on TV. Her voice was steady but conveyed the significance of what was occurring. You see, we were in my father’s hospital room. So, although we didn’t know it, he was within hours of the end of his battle with cancer. And he met one of his missions — and that was living to see man land on the Moon.”

“So, I want to salute and thank the men and women who worked tirelessly over 50 years ago, [who made that moment possible and inspired future generations and space exploration],” Hess concluded.

You can relive the golden anniversary of Apollo 11 in real-time here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

UAB, Cahaba Medical Care establishing new rural residency program

(YHN, Pixabay)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is continuing to help Alabama address its dire shortage of primary care physicians, which especially exists in underserved rural and urban areas.

UAB on Thursday announced that it is partnering with Cahaba Medical Care, a family medicine group with clinics in Jefferson, Bibb, Perry, Chilton, Dallas and Autauga counties, to create another rural residency program with participation from Medical West Hospital, an affiliate of the UAB Health System, in Bessemer and J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden.

The program will be called the Frontier Track and is funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Rural Residency Planning and Development program. The grant is part of a larger $20 million, multi-year initiative by HRSA to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by developing new, sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry.

“I am excited to work together to address the major needs of the state,” Dr. Irfan Asif, chair of the UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine, said in a statement.

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Asif also helped establish UAB’s partnership with Cahaba Medical Care.

“Alabama has one of the worst primary care shortages in the nation. By growing our residency program, we will help address this need and ultimately improve the lives of Alabamians,” he added.

Albert Turner Jr., Perry County Commissioner; Lisa Mariani, Regional Administrator, HRSA Office of Regional Operations; Laura Hyer, MD, Physician & Women’s Health Fellow, Cahaba Medical Care; Lacy Smith, MD, COO, Cahaba Medical Care; John B. Waits, MD, CEO, Cahaba Medical Care; Irfan Asif, MD, Professor & Chair, UAB Department of Family & Community Medicine; Elizabeth Kennedy, Administrator, J. Paul Jones Hospital; Jessica McGraw, Administrative Assistant, J. Paul Jones Hospital; Melinda Williams, District Director, U.S. Representative Terri A. Sewell (AL-07)

UAB and Cahaba Medical Care will begin recruiting residents for the Frontier Track in 2021. The residency is expected to begin in 2022.

“The health challenges in rural America are clear: Rural communities face a greater risk of poor health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, Ph.D., advised.

“Programs like the Rural Residency Planning and Development grants take aim at one of the most persistent disparities: access to high-quality health care providers,” he concluded. “HRSA is committed to increasing the number of providers serving rural communities and improving health in rural America.”

Last year, UAB and Cahaba Medical Care partnered to create the Cahaba-UAB Family Medicine Residency, which trains 12 new medical school graduates per year during a three-year residency.

With the creation of the Frontier Track, two or three additional residents will be added to the program for a three-year residency, where they will spend their first year at Medical West and Cahaba Medical Care’s Bessemer clinic, followed by two years at Cahaba Medical Care’s Marion clinic and J. Paul Jones Hospital.

“We know from decades of research, as well as from our own experience in Bibb County, that physicians who spend their critical, formative training years, actually practicing and training in rural, underserved areas, are as much as five times more likely to practice in a rural area,” Dr. John Waits, residency director of the Cahaba-UAB Family Medicine Residency and CEO of Cahaba Medical Care, explained. “With initiatives like this, we hope to do our part in changing the rural physician workforce shortage for the good.”

The UAB School of Medicine also operates three other educational programs designed to recruit and train primary care physicians specifically for future rural Alabama practice.

The UAB School of Medicine Blue Cross Blue Shield Program Scholarship was formed last year and will train a total of 60 primary care physicians over five years. The recipients must return to practice in a county with a primary care shortage after they complete their residencies. The Rural Medical Scholars Program is a joint program of the School of Medicine and the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences, which serves as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus of the School of Medicine. The Rural Medicine Program is conducted by the Huntsville Regional Campus of the School of Medicine and the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.

2 days ago

‘Momentous’: Alabama shatters five economic records

(PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that Alabama achieved five economic bests in June, setting a new record low unemployment rate, high jobs count, high employment count, high labor force count and low unemployment count.

June’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.5%, breaking the previous record low of 3.7% from the month previous. June’s rate represents 2,160,931 employed people, another fresh record high, which was 10,456 more employed than last month’s count and 48,952 more than in June 2018.

“Another month, and yet another set of broken records,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

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“It’s so exciting to be able to announce these great numbers month after month,” she continued. “It’s always positive to announce a new record low unemployment rate, but we also saw more people working than ever before, fewer unemployed than ever before, more people in the workforce than ever before, and finally, more jobs than ever before. These gains are momentous, and we certainly hope they continue as the year progresses.”

The civilian labor force increased over the year by 39,099 to a record-high 2,240,309. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

The number of people counted as unemployed dropped to a new record low of 79,378, which represents a drop of 9,853 people from June 2018.

“Let’s talk about jobs. Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before,” Washington outlined. “There are over 37,000 more jobs in Alabama today than a year ago. Those jobs are coming with the second highest average weekly earnings in history. Workers are earning an extra $44.76 per week than they were a year ago, and $21.91 more than they were just last month. Two of our employment sectors saw their highest average weekly earnings: the trade, transportation, and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector. So not only are we gaining jobs, but Alabamians are bringing home more in their paychecks.”

Total private industry average weekly earnings measured $860.73 in June, up from $838.82 in May and $815.97 in June 2018.
Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 37,300, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+8,000), the construction sector (+7,800) and the leisure and hospitality sector (+6,800), among several others.

Wage and salary employment increased in June by 6,600. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+1,500); the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+1,100); and the construction sector (+1,000), among others.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business sector’s average weekly earnings measured $702.96 and $1,087.97, respectively, which represents both sectors’ record-high earnings.

For the second consecutive month, all 67 counties saw declines in their over-the-year unemployment rates, with drops ranging from half a percentage point to more than three percentage points. Wilcox County, which traditionally has the state’s highest unemployment rate, saw its rate drop by 3.4 percentage points to 7.3%, its third-lowest rate ever.

“To put this in perspective, take a look at Wilcox County. During the recession, the county’s unemployment rate peaked at 31% in February 2010,” Washington advised. “Nearly one in three people in that county’s labor force were out of work. Now, they are at a near record low unemployment rate.”

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in June were Shelby County at 2.5%, Marshall County at 2.8% and Baldwin County at 2.9%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County at 7.3%, Greene and Perry Counties at 6.8% and Clarke County at 6.5%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were Vestavia Hills at 2.2%, Homewood at 2.3% and Alabaster at 2.4%. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were Selma at 7.2%, Prichard at 6.6% and Anniston at 4.9%.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Scofield: ‘Broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century’ — Crucial ‘to save some of the best areas of this state’

(S.Ross/YHN)

GUNTERSVILLE — Yellowhammer News on Thursday held the second event in its 2019 “News Shapers” series. Entitled “Connecting Alabama’s Rural Communities,” the forum regarding broadband expansion drew a great crowd and elicited insightful conversation from the four expert panelists: State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative’s Fred Johnson, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s Tom Stackhouse and Maureen Neighbors of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

Tim Howe, Yellowhammer Multimedia co-owner and Yellowhammer News editor-in-chief, moderated the forum, which came days after the second round of grants was awarded under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

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This fund was created through legislation sponsored by Scofield and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey during the Alabama Legislature’s 2018 regular session. The first round of grants was awarded earlier this year. The legislature then passed another bill by Scofield updating the law during the 2019 regular session.

To kick the conversation off on Thursday, Howe noted Scofield’s successful efforts the past two years in passing his broadband expansion legislation, also pointing to HB 400 sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) and State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro).

Howe asked Scofield about this year’s update of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act and the feedback he heard prior to the 2019 regular session that led to him crafting SB 90.

“We passed the broadband expansion bill last year, and we knew that there would be some changes that needed to occur this year — some fine-tuning and some tweaking,” Scofield explained. “And we know that in the future, there will also need to be some fine-tuning as we look to make the program work better… SB 90 reflected some of those changes, and we heard that (the need for changes) from our providers.”

Scofield explained that it is not profitable in many rural areas for companies to install the necessary broadband infrastructure, which is why the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund is so important. The fund provides state grants for service providers to supply high-speed internet services in unincorporated areas or communities with 25,000 people or less. Under the law, grant awards cannot exceed 20 percent of the total cost of a project, meaning providers must still have significant “skin in the game” financially.

“At the end of the day, our providers are the ones who are going to be installing the infrastructure for the consumers to enjoy,” Scofield outlined. “So, it’s very important to listen to the providers. This whole thing began by listening to the providers. ‘What is it going to take to get you to expand in rural Alabama?’ And folks, it’s cost. It’s a business decision. The market size is just not there, so the cash flow is just more difficult.”

He likened modern government support of broadband expansion to rural electricity and water expansion of old.

“You’re looking out at Lake Guntersville,” Scofield told the crowd at Guntersville Town Hall, “and it’s a product of government being involved in infrastructure. In the 1930s, the government got involved in rural power. Our co-ops took advantage of that and delivered power to rural customers. And in the 1960s-70s, they expanded to rural water. Well, broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century.”

“Without our providers, and without government providing some incentive to bring their costs down, it simply wouldn’t occur,” he emphasized. “So, the changes that we’ve seen (through SB 90) are to make the job easier on these guys (the providers).”

‘We still live in a capitalist economy’

Asked to speak to the recommended changes from the provider side, Johnson stressed, “Good public policy has to be based on fact.”

“It’s really easy to blame people for why there’s not broadband in certain parts of the state,” he continued. “But we still live in a capitalist economy — for the time being — and it’s a business case. If it’s (broadband) not there, there’s a really good reason for it. What this legislation does, especially in connection with the federal legislation… what it does is give companies that want to step up to the plate the leverage it may take to swing the pendulum to where a business case can be built and you can serve areas where otherwise there’s no public policy support to build.”

Johnson said he personally thinks “the world of Clay Scofield, Steve Livingston and (House Majority Leader) Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville),” who were all in attendance.

“The neatest thing about this (2019 broadband expansion efforts) was you had the leadership in the legislature — and Representative Shedd certainly needs to be included [in that recognition] — they took the time to understand the issue,” he added. “It’s not a Democratic, it’s not a Republican issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s an issue that affects all rural Alabamians of every race, color, creed, sex and anything else you want to talk about.”

Of the legislative leaders, Johnson reiterated, “They took the time to understand the issue and ask, ‘What do we need to do to swing the pendulum?’ Quite frankly, I think we’ve got one of the more cohesive public policies in the United States [now]… so I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

Stackhouse affirmed just how important SB 90 and HB 400 were from the perspective of an electric utility provider serving a rural nine-county area in central Alabama.

“80 years ago in November, our [co-op’s] first electric customer was connected… and the area flourished because of getting electricity to an area where a lot said, ‘You can’t make money at that, there’s no use doing that,'” Stackhouse advised. “It was huge.”

Now, in modern times, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s board has created a subsidiary to handle communications services, like broadband.

“Communication is now the electricity, and without [the legislation], it just doesn’t happen,” Stackhouse said.

He praised Scofield for his leadership, adding of SB 90 and HB 400, “It has really helped us step up.”

“And we’re not building our [broadband efforts just] on grants, we’ve got a business model we believe we can make work,” Stackhouse continued. “But grants help a lot, though, especially when it’s sparsely populated areas that need it just as much.”

Without broadband expansion, ‘they’re going to die’

Following up on just how much many rural areas in the state really do need broadband access, Howe then recalled an op-ed that Scofield wrote and Yellowhammer News published during the 2019 regular session when Scofield stated the survival of rural Alabama depends on broadband expansion.

Howe asked Scofield to outline the various aspects of modern life that are affected by access to high-speed internet services in his district and others like it across Alabama.

“In about every way you can think of,” Scofield said. “Not just agriculture, but economic development — you’re not going to recruit a company with 21st century jobs to an area without a 21st century infrastructure. You’re not going to train a 21st century workforce without 21st century infrastructure.”

“Telemedicine is the future for our healthcare, which I believe is one of the things that’s going to help bring healthcare costs down for a lot of Americans,” he continued.

Scofield stated that this is especially true, “In rural areas where we see increased levels of diabetes and obesity and a lot of ailments that seem to go up, because the healthcare isn’t easily accessible.”

“So, the thought that a person can connect to MD Anderson for a cancer screening in Greene County, and never leave Greene County, can save that person’s life,” he explained. “It’s a game-changer for a lot of people, and I think that a lot of folks just don’t realize that 830,000 or 840,000 Alabamians still don’t have [broadband] access.”

He then reaffirmed just how crucial these broadband expansion efforts are.

“It’s critical that we get this infrastructure out, that we get people hooked up in our rural areas because they’re going to die — they’re going to be left behind, they’re being left behind right now,” Scofield emphasized. “So, I think the quicker that we do that, the quicker we’re going to save some of the best areas of this state.”

‘This is a legacy’

Later in the forum, Scofield did also caution that broadband expansion to all Alabamians logistically cannot and will not happen instantaneously.

However, success will be achieved only when “we get to a point where, like power … if you want high-speed internet [wherever you live] in the state, you can connect to it,” Scofield believes.

“I think that’s where we’ve got to get,” he said. “And that’s not going to happen overnight… Everyone’s got to be patient. Lake Guntersville didn’t fill up in a day, they didn’t build the dam in a day and they didn’t give power to rural Autauga County in a day — or even here. It’s going to take a long time to build this infrastructure out, but I believe that we are on the right track.”

Scofield wrapped up the forum by lauding the integral support and teamwork of some of his fellow legislators who were in attendance, including Livingston, Ledbetter and State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre), along with Shedd, who was unavailable to make the event.

“I’m really proud of what we came out with,” Scofield said of SB 90 as signed into law. “And I think that whether you’re an elected official or not, if you had something to do with this, I think that this is a legacy that we’re going to be able to leave this state. It’s going to benefit generations. And that’s why I do what I do, and I know that’s why they (the legislators in attendance) do what they do. I think it’s going to be something that’s going to move this state forward in ways that we can’t even envision today.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

(W. Ainsworth/Twitter, YHN)

Wednesday, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) presented Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. with the 2019 Thomas R. Hobson Distinguished Aerospace Service Award for a lifetime of exemplary achievement in the aerospace field.

The award presentation came during the Aerospace States Association’s annual dinner, which was held in Huntsville at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Ainsworth is currently chair of the association, which is a national nonpartisan group composed of lieutenant governors, gubernatorial-appointed delegates and associate members from aerospace organizations and academia.

In remarks shared with Yellowhammer News, Ainsworth honored Alabama’s space legacy, recognizing Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this week.

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“Throughout each of the past six decades, Alabama and the Marshall Space Flight Center have created the engines that rocketed man into the heavens,” he said. “It’s here that Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his committed team of scientists and engineers birthed the Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon and allowed them to place a U.S. flag on the lunar surface.”

“For those reasons, it’s altogether appropriate that we gather in this state and this city for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” he continued. “We are fortunate to have Buzz Aldrin, an original moonwalker and living American legend, join us during this conference.”

The conference is set to last through the rest of the week, with attendees working on publicly policy related to the aerospace industry and advocating for their home states.

“The work we do here this week will bring the stars and planets closer to the earth and ensure that future generations are privy to the same dreams and inspirations that the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, and Space Station eras provid-ed to generations prior,” Ainsworth told the crowd.

Alabama is set to play a big role in ongoing and future space exploration, as Ainsworth emphasized in an interview with WHNT on Wednesday.

“I was just talking with some industry leaders who are here and they are talking about expanding the existing industry,” he the lieutenant governor said. “I think a lot of new industries are looking here. And the reason why is we are the aerospace capital of the world. I think when you look at our tax environment, with the workforce we are training, Alabama is open for business in aerospace, no doubt.”

Speaking with WZDX, Ainsworth referenced the Artemis program, with companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Alabama set to make history in the very near future.

“Today I had an opportunity to tour ULA where they are building rockets that will literally send our next astronauts to the Moon, and when you look at just the president’s commitment to going back to the Moon, and when you look at potentially the future of going to Mars, it’s an exciting and energetic time in the aerospace industry right now,” Ainsworth advised.

RELATED: Aderholt celebrates Apollo 11, calls for SLS to stay on schedule

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.

2 days ago

Doug Jones’ approval rating continues to fall

(D. Jones/Facebook, YHN)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to lose popularity as 2020 draws nearer.

Morning Consult on Thursday released its polling numbers for the second quarter of 2019, showing Jones’ net approval rating 20 points lower than the first quarter of 2018 when he entered the U.S. Senate.

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The polling was conducted from April 1 through June 30 and measured registered voters. The results showed 39% of respondents approved of Jones’ job performance, while 37% disapproved and 24% were undecided. The margin of error was 1%.

In contrast, Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) net approval rating is 15 points higher than Jones’, with 46% approving and only 29% disapproving of Alabama’s venerable senior senator.

Jones’ net approval rating has dropped three points since the beginning of the year.

Another poll conducted in April went deeper than Morning Consult’s approval rating surveys, showing that Jones faces nearly insurmountable demographic barriers to reelection.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.

2 days ago

Alabama couple turns racist graffiti message into opportunity to respond to hate with love

(J. Miller, J. Anderson/Facebook, YHN)

Jeremy and Gina Miller, an interracial husband-and-wife real estate team in the Birmingham metro area, were shocked on Wednesday to discover a racial slur painted on one of their “For Sale” signs at a local property.

ABC 33/40 reported that “NO N***R” was painted on the Local Realty sign in large white letters.

However, the Millers are responding to this hateful incident purely with love, guided by their faith, according to The Trussville Tribune.

“I think that God has been preparing Gina and me for a long time, in ways that we never would have expected, to touch a lot of people,” Jeremy told the newspaper.

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The Millers, who live in Clay, will not be pressing charges on the individual responsible for the racist graffiti, whose identity is at this time unknown.

“We would love to know who did it because if we find them, we will show them mercy,” Jeremy advised. “I don’t think anything good comes from pressing charges. That’s not the message here.”

The couple hopes to use the incident to unite their community and lift others up.

“We just got a message on Facebook yesterday about how God spoke to him through my post and our response,” Jeremy told The Trussville Tribune. “It encouraged him to see us responding through love and not through retaliation.”

“When something like this occurs, you can love back instead. We want to unite people,” he added.

Jeremy also wants people to know the racist incident is not representative of their community.

“This is not indicative of the people in this area,” he emphasized. “It happens everywhere and they don’t always say it to your face.”

Perhaps the toughest part of the incident personally for the Millers has been trying to tell their children what happened.

“Having to explain to them what happened with the sign has been a little frustrating,” Gina noted.

The Millers are also using this incident as a learning opportunity.

“We tell [our children] all the time, hurt people, hurt people,” Jeremy explained. “I tell them that even adults do mean things sometimes. When you’re angry, you’re not nice to other people… We want to respond in love when maybe that person hasn’t received such things.”

Jeremy stressed a constant message of love.

“It (racism) is not dead and it probably won’t die for a very, very long time, but we as a culture and society have to keep perpetuating the message of loving one another,” he remarked. “If someone’s hurting and they lash out at you, you don’t have to respond negatively.”

The defaced sign has been replaced with a fresh one that includes both Jeremy and Gina’s headshots.

Read more here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Ivey establishes study group on Alabama’s corrections system

(YHN, Pixabay)

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, which will receive and analyze accurate data, as well as evidence of best practices, ultimately helping to further address the serious challenges facing Alabama’s corrections system.

The Ivey administration, after inheriting decades-old, systemic problems in the state’s prison system, including overcrowding and understaffing, has made reforming the prison system a top priority, with the governor stressing that it is ultimately a key matter of public safety.

“The people of Alabama are not unaware of the complexities that face our state’s prison system, which take a toll on their hard-earned dollars and negatively impact public safety. The challenges we face are multifaceted, and in turn, a multifaceted solution, driven by data is necessary,” Ivey said in a statement on Thursday.

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“In establishing the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, I am looking to see data driving us to even further reforms in the system,” she outlined. “Thanks to my Administration and the Legislature, we are well on our way to making meaningful progress, and I am confident this group will help us dive even further into the facts to ensure the state’s existing efforts lead us to an Alabama solution.”

Ivey also believes that success in achieving positive results requires continued collaboration between the executive and legislative branches. To that end, the study group will consist of the governor, who will serve as the chair; the attorney general; three members of the Alabama House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House; three members of the Senate appointed by the president pro tempore; the state commissioner of corrections; the state director of finance; and additional individuals as the governor deems necessary.

Members of the group may participate by proxy, and the governor has designated former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Champ Lyons to serve in her place as chairman.

“The primary emphasis of Governor Ivey’s new established study group is indeed to study. The Department of Corrections has important reforms underway, and we will be there to further analyze various areas of the justice system, ultimately helping our state to continue making informed, data-driven decisions,” Lyons advised.

“We will consider the problem of recidivism and steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of a released prisoner returning back to state custody. We will also look closely at data on the current sentencing laws. As Governor Ivey has made clear, addressing the challenges facing our state’s prisons is multifaceted, and she is certainly helping bring various heads together to move the needle on this critical issue,” he concluded.

Legislative members of the study group include: State Senators Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and State Representatives Jim Hill (R-Moody), Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa).

The Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy will convene for the first time Monday, July 22, 2019.

The executive order decrees that the group will be dissolved effective the first day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2020 regular session.

This comes after the Department of Justice earlier this year concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding“cruel and unusual punishment.” The DOJ also implied that if measures were not taken to improve the situation, the prison system could face action from the federal government, which could come in the form of a takeover.

Legislative leaders have recently forecasted a potential special session on corrections occurring in January or February of 2020 before the regular session.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Aderholt celebrates Apollo 11, calls for SLS to stay on schedule

(Rep. Aderholt/YouTube)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday delivered a speech on the U.S. House floor honoring North Alabama’s Apollo 11 contributions and urgently calling for the Space Launch System (SLS) to stay on schedule for the future of American space exploration.

Aderholt’s comments came the week of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary. The launch occurred on July 16, 1969 and the landmark landing on the Moon’s surface happened four days later. Saturn V, which was developed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, powered the mission.

After speaking of the legacy of Apollo 11, Aderholt turned his attention to how Alabama is set to make history once again.

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“I am excited about the president’s call to accelerate our plans and to land again on the Moon, by 2024,” he said. “This mission, named Artemis, will also be historic – a woman astronaut will be the next person to step on the Moon.”

“I am very proud of the role my home state played in the development of our most powerful rockets, the Saturn family. … Likewise, I am proud that Marshall Space Flight Center, including the Machoud Assembly Facility, is the designer and builder of the Space Launch System. This will be the most powerful rocket in the world, and it is approximately 90% finished. The taxpayer owns it and will benefit from it as a national asset. It is the successful, combined work of private companies and suppliers from virtually every state in the nation,” Aderholt outlined.

Extolling the capabilities of SLS, he then said the system can be “ready by 2024, but only if we move ahead this year with that goal.”

Aderholt urged his colleagues to join him in supporting SLS.

“Systems like the SLS and Orion inspire innovation, and maybe one day other rockets and capsules will surpass them, but to reach our goal of 2024, we need to stay focused and complete these nearly mature systems,” he emphasized.

The Alabama congressman said the nation’s space ambitions should not end with the next Moon landing.

“Let’s reach that peak, let’s make that landing,” Aderholt concluded. “And as we ponder the future of the Moon, let’s look up again, and set a date, a real mission date, for setting foot on Mars.”

Watch:

Aderholt’s full remarks as follows:

Fifty years ago this week, three brave Americans stepped foot on the Moon.

When we look at our children’s toys, it is amazing that they contain more data processing power than the systems which operated the Apollo vehicles.

These three American astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, could not know whether they would return. They were willing to serve their country and proud for America to be leading the world in space.

But even if our space program got a strong jump start because of the Cold War, this mission was also about the human spirit and the need to explore. The whole world was eager to hear news of the mission. No matter what might happen in the future, this would be the first time human beings stepped foot on a world other than our home. Neil Armstrong’s description of this mission as a “leap” was fitting then, and it is instructional now.

I am excited about the president’s call to accelerate our plans and to land again on the Moon, by 2024. This mission, named Artemis, will also be historic – a woman astronaut will be the next person to step on the Moon.

I am very proud of the role my home state played in the development of our most powerful rockets, the Saturn family. You can still see a real Saturn V rocket, suspended horizontally, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Likewise, I am proud that Marshall Space Flight Center, including the Machoud Assembly Facility, is the designer and builder of the Space Launch System. This will be the most powerful rocket in the world, and it is approximately 90% finished. The taxpayer owns it and will benefit from it as a national asset. It is the successful, combined work of private companies and suppliers from virtually every state in the nation.

The Saturn V rocket was able to execute Apollo missions in one launch because the rocket’s third stage propelled the lander and re-entry vehicle to the Moon’s orbit. Similarly, the SLS Exploration Upper Stage, or EUS, will enable a payload delivery to Moon orbit – including the Orion capsule – of 45 metric tons – three to four times greater than other launch vehicles currently in use or close to completion. We can have that EUS capability ready by 2024, but only if we move ahead this year with that goal.

Systems like the SLS and Orion inspire innovation, and maybe one day other rockets and capsules will surpass them, but to reach our goal of 2024, we need to stay focused and complete these nearly mature systems.

Some have said in recent years about going to the Moon, “Been there, done that.” With all due respect, I disagree. But of this new mission to the Moon, I might say, “Go there, but don’t stop there.” Sustainability offers many future benefits, but let’s not get distracted and overfill our backpack for this first, human return to the Moon. Let’s reach that peak, let’s make that landing. And as we ponder the future of the Moon, let’s look up again, and set a date, a real mission date, for setting foot on Mars.

I yield back, Mr. Chairman.

RELATED: Huntsville celebrates Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, looks to create next ‘giant leap’ — ‘Alabama is clearly in the lead, and we’re going to stay there’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Van Smith lands ‘pro-jobs’ BCA endorsement in Alabama HD 42 race

(BCA/Contributed, YHN)

Autauga County Commissioner Van Smith has received a major boost as the special primary election for Alabama House District 42 draws near.

The board of directors of ProgressPAC, the Business Council of Alabama’s (BCA) political arm, on Wednesday announced that they have endorsed Smith, a farmer and retired educator.

“I am honored to have the support of the business community,” Smith said in a statement. “Education and workforce development are the cornerstones of my campaign. I look forward to championing pro-business ideals in Montgomery.”

The seat became vacant upon the death of State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) in late May. The primary is scheduled for August 20.

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ProgressPAC Chairman John Mazyck said, “Van Smith’s background as a farmer and an educator combined with his service on the County Commission give him solid credentials to serve the central Alabama district in the House of Representatives.”

“He has demonstrated that he is committed to recruiting new industry and growing jobs. ProgressPAC is proud to endorse him in the August 20 special election,” Mazyck concluded.

BCA’s ProgressPAC is comprised of a statewide board of directors and nine regional advisory committees (RACs) that assess races in each locality and make endorsement recommendations to the full board of directors.

ProgressPAC’s RAC 4, chaired by Horace Horn of PowerSouth Energy, initially made the recommendation to endorse Smith, which was followed by the full board voting affirmatively on this recommendation.

“Alabama’s business community is proud to support Van Smith,” Horn emphasized. “We look forward to working with him as we continue to best position our state for continued growth, recruiting jobs and workforce development.”

Smith earned a master’s degree from Alabama A&M in Agriscience Education. He served 37 years in public education as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, retiring in 2013.

Since then, Smith, 66, has served on the Autauga County Commission. Born in Chilton County, he also currently operates Hickory Hill cattle and hay farm.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Mo Brooks: Apollo 11 legacy ‘lives on in the Tennessee Valley of Alabama’

(Rep. Brooks/YouTube)

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) on Wednesday took the floor of the U.S. House in celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary and his North Alabama district’s role in making that famous mission successful.

He reminisced on growing up near enough to Marshall Space Flight Center that he remembered “the Earth shake and the dishes in our kitchen cabinets rattle as the [Saturn] V engines were tested nearby.”

Brooks went on to emphasize that Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center “is the birthplace of America’s space program.”

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He honored the many individuals working behind-the-scenes in Huntsville who made this statement a reality, also delivering optimistic, inspirational remarks about the future of U.S. space exploration and scientific achievement.

“[M]ankind’s greatest achievements are yet to come [and] America will continue to accomplish the unimaginable in space for the benefit of all humanity,” Brooks emphasized.

Similar to comments made at Tuesday night’s Apollo 11 50th anniversary dinner at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Brooks also stressed that North Alabama would be playing a vital role in the next space frontier: The Artemis program which will take Americans back to the surface of the Moon and eventually to Mars.

He concluded, “As we reach for the stars, I have confidence that the Tennessee Valley, Marshall Space Flight Center, and Huntsville, where we say The Sky is NOT the Limit,’ will be instrumental in carrying American astronauts back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond!”

Watch:

Brooks’ full remarks as follows:

Mr. Speaker, this week, America celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of mankind’s— and America’s— greatest achievements— walking on the surface of the Moon.

Although then only a child, I well-remember the Earth shake and the dishes in our kitchen cabinets rattle as the [Saturn] V engines were tested nearby.

Even now, 50 years after watching the Moon landing, I get chills remembering when Apollo astronauts landed and later planted the American flag on the Moon’s surface.

It was American ingenuity, boldness, technical prowess, and economic might that made this historic achievement possible.

I’m proud to say the legacy of the Apollo 11 Moon landing lives on in the Tennessee Valley of Alabama that I represent.

Some history is in order.

The Tennessee Valley’s Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program.

Americans generally, and Alabamians in particular, designed and engineered the Saturn V rocket that launched the historic Apollo 11 and took American astronauts to the Moon.

I will never forget the flames and the roar as our Saturn V rocket was launched and carried the Apollo 11 crew and vehicles to the Moon.

I remember with tremendous pride American Neil Armstrong’s words as he to set foot on the Moon, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That giant leap, meant to benefit all mankind, is a prime example of American exceptionalism and helped cement America’s status as the best, most powerful, and most influential nation in world history.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted America’s flag on the Moon’s surface on July 20th, 1969, there was no doubt that America’s space program had passed the Russians and become the preeminent leader in space exploration, a position America maintains today.

This week, America not only reflects on the miraculous achievements of the Apollo 11 mission, but we also honor those who played a critical role in its ultimate success.

The Tennessee Valley is immensely proud of our pivotal role in landing a man on the Moon and, equally importantly, returning them alive to Earth.

Reflecting our pride in America’s achievement, there are two— that’s two— Saturn V rockets displayed at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

These Saturn V displays help inspire the next generation to reach for the stars and achieve what now may be thought impossible.

While it is important to remember the historical achievements of the Apollo missions, it is also important to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the effort to achieve American greatness.

In that vein, Huntsville has named schools after Apollo Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee, each of whom died during a capsule fire during an Apollo 1 ground test.

After the Moon landing and return of Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins to Earth on July 24, 1969, Huntsville’s streets were awash with revelers.

German Rocket Scientist Wernher Von Braun said on the Huntsville courthouse steps that day, “My friends, there was dancing here in the streets of Huntsville when our first satellites orbited the Earth. There was dancing again when the first Americans landed on the Moon. I’d like to ask you, “don’t hang up your dancing slippers.”

Von Braun’s words remind us that mankind’s greatest achievements are yet to come, that America will continue to accomplish the unimaginable in space for the benefit of all humanity.

As we reach for the stars, I have confidence that the Tennessee Valley, Marshall Space Flight Center, and Huntsville, where we say “The Sky is NOT the Limit,” will be instrumental in carrying American astronauts back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond!

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Palmer on Trump’s ‘Squad’ tweets: ‘Ill-timed and insensitive, but not racist’

(WH/Flickr, G. Palmer/Facebook)

All six Republican members of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation on Tuesday voted against a resolution condemning President Donald Trump for tweets he made over the weekend calling on four prominent Democratic freshman congresswoman, known as “The Squad,” to “go back” to the countries from which they came.

With the resolution passing mostly on party lines (235 Democrats were joined by only four Republican supporting the measure), Congressmen Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Mo Brooks (AL-05) and Gary Palmer (AL-06) released statements explaining their positions.

Palmer did not embrace Trump’s tweets but emphasized Democrats were not in the right.

“President Trump’s comments on Twitter were ill-timed and insensitive, but not racist, as the Socialist Democrats have hypocritically claimed,” Palmer said.

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He continued, “The hypocrisy is glaringly apparent when you consider that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted, ‘This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants,’ and that Representative Ilhan Omar recently tweeted that support for Israel was ‘all about the Benjamins.’

“The Founders envisioned the House floor as a place where the people’s business is conducted,” Palmer advised. “It was not designed for hypocritical, political grandstanding. The House could conduct no other business if we responded to every unbecoming comment of elected officials on social media.”

He concluded that the Democrats were wasting time when real issues were going unresolved at the expense of scoring cheap partisan points.

“Instead of wasting time on comments made on a Twitter account, we should be focused on addressing the issues that are of greatest concern to Americans, including the crisis at our southern border. This is what we have been elected to do. We have not been elected as the social media police,” Palmer emphasized.

‘Socialist Squad’

In his statement, Byrne referenced his standing offer to pay the airfare for “The Squad” to go live in Venezuela, which was first reported by Yellowhammer News.

“Today’s vote is a transparent and ineffective attempt to distract from the open warfare inside the Democratic Party,” he commented. “The long histories of anti-Semitic and un-American comments from the so called ‘Socialist Squad’ deserve universal condemnation, and Democrats’ overnight transition from a circular firing squad to a circle of support is the height of hypocrisy.”

“Since ‘the Squad’ thinks America is such a terrible place, I’ve offered to fly them to the socialist paradise of Venezuela,”Byrne added. “In the meantime, we should stop wasting time on show votes like this and finally take action to secure the border and solve the immigration crisis.”

‘Hatred for America’s foundational principles’

In his statement, Brooks forcefully pushed back on the charges of “racism” against Trump, saying the tweets had nothing to do with race.

“President Trump hammered various Socialist Democrats for their support for evil Socialism; repugnant, non-stop invective and hatred shown for the foundational principles which have made America the greatest nation in world history; open disdain and dislike of Israel; and religious prejudice against the Jewish people,” the north Alabama congressman outlined.

“Socialist Democrats have no legitimate defense of Socialism, hatred for America’s foundational principles, open disdain and dislike of Israel, and religious prejudice against the Jewish people so, instead, they do what Socialist Democrats candidate schools train them to do: divert public attention by hollering racism despite the facts being crystal clear that President Trump was motivated by a lot of things, but none of them had anything at all to do with race or skin pigmentation,” Brooks continued.

Brooks said Democrats should not have “falsely” brought race into the equation.

“Just as a person’s skin pigmentation should not be wrongly used as a sword against him, a person’s skin pigmentation should also not be wrongly used as a shield that deflects from proper political discourse,” he added. “Socialist Democrats are wrong, sinister and insidious to interject race as a motivation for President Trump’s tweets when those very same tweets show on their face a variety of motivations that have nothing to do with race or skin pigmentation.”

“The Socialist Democrats’ imputing false, racial motive to President Trump without supporting evidence and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is malicious and vile conduct that insidiously divides America on racial grounds while undermining the credibility of legitimate racist claims made in American society,” Brooks concluded. “Revolting and malevolent conduct that promotes racial division for political gain must be condemned and opposed. With my vote, I do both.”

Update 2:20 p.m.:

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) released a statement on voting against the resolution.

“The House Democrats are in total disarray and yesterday’s events on the House Floor were an embarrassment,” he said.

“Today’s expected vote to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump is completely baseless and ridiculous,” Rogers added. “Democrats are still delusional and in denial about the 2016 election. They are so blinded by their hate for President Trump, that they would rather make cheap political points with their radical Socialist base than do their jobs. I am disgusted by it. I strongly stand with President Trump and his America First agenda.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Huntsville celebrates Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, looks to create next ‘giant leap’ — ‘Alabama is clearly in the lead, and we’re going to stay there’

(Gov. Ivey/Twitter)

HUNTSVILLE — A sea of people packed out the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on Tuesday evening to celebrate the Rocket City’s past, present and future leadership in the space industry.

Among the crowd at the Apollo 11 50th anniversary dinner were famed astronauts and local and state officials.

However, with a scaled-down Saturn V rocket replica standing immediately beside the stage and the famed full-size replica Saturn V looming over the building, it was the behind-the-scenes work of scientists, techs and engineers that drew special praise throughout the evening.

Many of these unsung individuals were in attendance, and the enormous crowd gave them a resounding standing ovation for their innovation and dedication during the Space Race in the 1960s that made it possible for Apollo 11 to experience a perfect launch on July 16, 1969, and then land on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.

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Fifty years to the day from that launch, which was powered by the Huntsville-built Saturn V, all three of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s children were in attendance on Tuesday. He, of course, led the team of innovators in Huntsville that made Apollo 11 possible.

Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the Space and Rocket Center and 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.

She called Tuesday “the best day” of her life, thanking all of the individuals who made the momentous anniversary possible.

Following her opening remarks was Hal Brewer, co-founder and president of Huntsville’s INTUITIVE Research and Technology, who explained that he grew up in the Rocket City during the 1960s.

“I will certainly never forget watching the television in 1969 as the United States became the first country to land on the Moon,” he said. “I’ll never forget the awe, the excitement and the many questions I had surrounding that day. Those many questions — the one that grew in my mind was, ‘How? How had we been able to accomplish the unthinkable?’ Behind those famous first steps there was a group of engineers, technicians and scientists that designed, developed and tested the Saturn V rocket that launched into space. … This 300-foot engineering marvel sent man traveling at [almost] 25,000 miles per hour to the Moon, 240,000 miles away, and safely back.”

In later comments, Barnhart recounted that people were dancing in the streets of Huntsville after Apollo 11 successfully completed its mission in 1969.

Speaking of the Space Launch System (SLS), which is under development at Marshall Space Flight Center and slated to be NASA’s most powerful rocket ever, Barnhart quipped that Huntsville will be dancing again when its innovation powers Americans back to the surface of the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

Jody Singer (an Alabamian, 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact and the first female to ever lead Marshall Space Flight Center) took to the stage and reinforced this. In fact, on the side of the stage opposite from the replica Saturn V towered a model version of the SLS.

Singer advised that SLS will allow for “the next giant leap” in human space exploration.

“From launch to landing, it’s coming through Huntsville, Alabama,” she emphasized, after sharing that Apollo 11 inspired her to pursue a career in the space industry.

“So just like Apollo inspired a generation, we will inspire the next generation through the Artemis program,” Singer added.

Not only will Artemis put the first woman on the surface of the Moon and help establish a sustainable American lunar presence, but the Alabama-driven program will also open the door for the first human trip to Mars — and beyond.

“I am confident, that in 50 years from now, we’ll be talking all about Space Launch System, what has happened in Huntsville [with Artemis] and how we’re [still] going forward… with the same awe that we hold today for Apollo 11 and the pride that we’re celebrating tonight,” she concluded.

Dr. Margrit von Braun, daughter of the space legend, is herself an environmental engineer who has dedicated her life to scientific pursuits. She delivered an impassioned address to the crowd on Tuesday, talking about journeying from “dreams to reality.”

Referencing Barnhart’s earlier comments, von Braun concluded her speech by saying, “Get your dancing slippers ready.”

‘We are celebrating the American spirit’

Governor Kay Ivey delivered an energetic keynote speech at the dinner on Tuesday, also touting Alabama’s historic role in Apollo 11’s success while emphasizing that the best is yet to come.

Speaking of the tumultuous time in American history in which the Space Race unfolded, Ivey took the crowd “down memory lane,” reminiscing on how many people doubted that President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to send man to the Moon within a decade could be accomplished.

“Now ladies and gentlemen,” Ivey continued in trademark fashion. “We are here tonight to celebrate that accomplishment and the significant role that Alabama has played in making this dream a reality.”

“As we have often done, Alabamians responded [to the challenge] by doing what we do best,” she explained. “We put our heads together, and we began working for a cause that is bigger than ourselves. So, as we celebrate this 50th anniversary of the Moon launch, we are celebrating the American spirit — and we are also celebrating the importance of collaboration.”

Speaking of the team of innovators led by Dr. von Braun, Ivey praised the development of Saturn V in Huntsville.

“It’s a good reminder that Americans — Alabamians — can accomplish just about anything when we put our mind to it,” Ivey stressed.

She said this type of “ingenuity and greatness of the people of our state” is fittingly celebrated as Alabama commemorates its bicentennial.

The governor added, “And just as we recognize the richness of our past, we must always be looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges. President Trump has issued his own challenge for us to return to the Moon and then eventually on to Mars.”

“While the possibility of going to Mars might seem unachievable to some people, remember: at one point in time so did landing on the Moon,” Ivey continued. “It’s good to know that Alabama and Alabamians will once again be at the launchpad for this new space frontier.”

This reflected sentiments Ivey recently expressed to Yellowhammer News in an exclusive interview.

She expressed optimism that the resurgence in national prioritization of human space exploration under the Trump administration will mean bright days for Alabama, highlighting how private and public entities in the state are at the forefront of various space initiatives.

“You’ve got ULA (United Launch Alliance) that’s building their new Vulcan [Centaur] rocket, and Marshall Space Flight Center is leading NASA’s effort [with SLS],” she said. “So, I think Alabama is clearly in the lead — and we’re going to stay there.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Birmingham’s Southern Research, Southern Company help put Alabama on cutting edge of renewable energy future

(S.Ross/YHN)

BIRMINGHAM — Southern Research on Tuesday held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Energy Storage Research Center, which is the first of its kind in Alabama and is indicative, industry experts said, of the Yellowhammer State positioning itself at the forefront of next-generation energy needs.

The ceremony was held in collaboration with Southern Research’s partners on the important project: Southern Company, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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The Energy Storage Research Center will serve as an industrywide resource for testing chemical, mechanical and thermal energy storage systems under actual conditions while offering increased reliability and resiliency; better management of peak load demand; and increased integration and value of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar.

The center will allow third-party innovators from the electric utility industry, academia, government and technology the ability to research, develop and demonstrate energy storage solutions.

At the end of the day, the goal is for this energy research to turn into real-world uses for utilities, as well as the commercial and industrial sectors. This is something that Southern Research and Southern Company have both long excelled at as partners, speakers during the ceremony said.

In fact, Southern Research’s senior director for energy & environment, Corey Tyree, explained that this is no accident, as Southern Research’s founder was a former CEO of Southern Company. Tom Martin founded Southern Research in Birmingham in 1941.

Since then, the independent, nonprofit, scientific and engineering research organization that supports clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries has grown into a national gem. Southern Research’s staff of nearly 400 now works across four divisions in the pursuit of entrepreneurial and collaborative initiatives to develop and maintain a pipeline of intellectual property and innovative technologies that positively impact real-world problems.

Market forces

One of these problems for the energy sector in modern times is reducing carbon emissions. While renewable energy research has been underway across the world for some time now, solutions are still not ready for renewables (solar, wind, hydropower, etc.) to overtake traditional sources such as natural gas and coal.

Yet, the market is demanding increased renewable energy usage — and fast, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield advised during the ceremony.

He said he was present to speak to the fact that “the state of Alabama, through the Alabama Department of Commerce, has been focused on being a facilitator for the accelerated growth of renewable energy options and the research, testing and validation of the future generation of energy storage technologies that are necessary to scale renewables at the utility level.”

Canfield stressed this growth was being driven by market forces. He also emphasized that it is important to develop and implement the technology in a scalable way so “that renewable energy can be brought into reality at a cost-effective and truly market-sustainable fashion.”

“In just four years, we’ve participated in economic development activities across this state which have seen renewable energy for power production increase by three-to-four fold,” Canfield explained.

He said this growth in renewable energy use throughout the state’s grid has been made possible by the efforts of utilities such as Alabama Power Company, PowerSouth and TVA.

Canfield pointed to new Google, Facebook and Walmart facilities as being specific examples of economic development projects in Alabama that called for increased renewable energy usage.

“All of these companies, as well as many others that we are recruiting into our state and helping build the business environment to expand in our state, we’re finding that more and more every day [are] demanding green, sustainable, renewable energy as part of their operation in Alabama,” Canfield stated.

He outlined that the recent significant growth in renewable energy capacity is going to “continue to accelerate.”

“The demand for sustainable energy in our state, as well as worldwide, will continue to accelerate,” the commerce secretary added. “And it will come from customer demand.”

He explained that utilities in the state are “reacting to” this market demand, and projects like the new Energy Storage Research Center will help them do this as effectively and economically as possible.

Canfield said the state had provided seed money for this project going back to 2016 or 2017 and is a proud partner in the endeavor.

“This center really… is about the future of our state [from an economic development perspective],” Canfield noted. “It’s about the future of our nation, it’s about energy independence. But it’s also about how do we make capturing energy produced from renewable sources more readily available on a cost-effective basis. And ultimately that cost equation is what we’ll need for widespread adoption in the marketplace.”

“I can’t wait to see the future work that comes from this research center,” he concluded.

‘Clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy’

Roxann Walsh, director of reduced carbon, renewable and distributed energy research and development for Southern Company, also spoke during the ceremony.

She spoke on behalf of Southern Company and its subsidiary, Alabama Power, expressing that innovation is in the “DNA” and “spirit” of both entities.

Walsh said that this week’s celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary is an especially fitting time to announce this forward-looking endeavor. This year also marks a half-century of Southern Company’s modern energy research and development efforts.

The company has grown into the nation’s second-largest utility company, with innovation as a staple.

“[P]roviding clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy” is the core goal, Walsh advised.

The company’s “robust” research and development efforts help them keep up with market demands and actually get ahead of consumer needs.

Today, much of that focus is on renewable energy solutions and smart home/neighborhood projects, according to Walsh.

She said part of their success in these endeavors comes from collaboration with diverse partners across various sectors, just like the new Energy Storage Research Center.

The partner-leaders involved in the project affirmed Southern Company’s commitment to collaboration, innovation and renewables during the ceremony, including Charlie Vartanian of the U.S. Department of Energy and Mark McGranaghan of EPRI.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with Southern Company,” McGranaghan said. “Southern Company is kind of the model of establishing the participation and collaboration [across sectors for turning research into practical uses and technologies].”

Through this public-private partnership, led by Southern Research and Southern Company, the future is bright for the Yellowhammer State.

Canfield concluded, “[T]his facility puts Alabama at the forefront of some of the most important research being done for renewable energy in the U.S.”

RELATED: Rebuild Alabama bill puts state on cutting edge of electric vehicle infrastructure

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Jones latest finance report: 88% of funds from out-of-state again

(D. Jones/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) latest fundraising report has been filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), with the senator continuing to rake in money from almost everywhere but his own home state.

Jones’ report, which covers April through June, showed that Alabama’s junior senator brought in $2,006,226.32 during the second quarter. With his expenses totaling $841,602.44 during the same time span, his “burn rate” was 41.9%, much higher than any of the Republicans vying to unseat him in 2020.

Geographically, the primary sources of contributions for Jones was much like the previous two quarters, when he raised more respectively from overseas and other states than from the Yellowhammer State.

In the second quarter, 87.78% of Jones’ itemized individual contributions came from out-of-state, compared to 12.22% coming from Alabamians. A whopping 45.35% of his itemized individual contributions came from California, New York and the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area alone.

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He raised the most in itemized individual contributions from New York (16.16%), followed by California (15.10%).

Jones, a staunch advocate of counting illegal aliens in the census, received 8.02% of his itemized individual contributions from Texas.

By occupation, Jones received the most money in itemized individual funds from contributors self-reporting that they were unemployed (19.97%). Attorneys (19.03%) were the next highest occupation.

To be clear, the above percentages do not factor in the $392,352.94 Jones raised during the second quarter from other political committees, such as PACs. The locations of these committees would drive the geographic breakdown towards the out-of-state side of the equation even more.

Jones ended the quarter with $4,259,540.86 cash on hand.

Read about the Republican candidates’ fundraising numbers here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

50 years ago today: Alabama-built Saturn V rocket powers Apollo 11 launch

(Rep. Aderholt/Twitter)

On July 16, 1969, the Huntsville-built Saturn V rocket powered the launch of Apollo 11, which would see American astronauts land on the surface of the Moon four days later.

For the 50th anniversary of this historic launch, Governor Kay Ivey will deliver an address Tuesday night in Huntsville at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

While North Alabama continues to be a national leader in the space industry, including NASA’s Artemis program (which will land the first woman on the surface of the Moon by 2024) and future expeditions to Mars and beyond, Yellowhammer State residents can be proud of the storied history that led to Huntsville’s nickname as “Rocket City, U.S.A.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), a staunch ally of the space sector, posted a chill-inducing video Tuesday morning honoring this legacy.

Watch:

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A replica of the Saturn V rocket can be seen driving into Huntsville on I-565.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Alabama State Rep. Pringle visits Pelosi’s office to support Trump’s infrastructure talks, speak out against I-10 bridge toll

(Chris Pringle/YouTube, D. Trump/Instagram, N. Pelosi/Flickr)

State Representative Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) on Monday visited U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office to fight the proposed I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge toll.

An email from Pringle’s AL-01 congressional campaign explained that he intended to personally ask Pelosi why she walked out on President Donald Trump during infrastructure talks last month. However, Pringle was turned away by Pelosi’s staff.

This did not dissuade Pringle from making his point, as he recorded a video outside of the speaker’s Capitol office and then published it for the world to see.

In the video, he called on Pelosi to stop “playing political games” with infrastructure, which is an issue that should have bipartisan support on the merits.

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Pringle lamented that the Democrats’ obstruction is “going to cause [southwest Alabamians] to pay a $6 toll to cross that bridge (the to-be-built I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge) and that’s not right.”

“We need that infrastructure plan and we need it acted on now,” he added.

Watch:

Pringle is an opponent of the proposed $6 (each way) toll, which he emphasized would hurt locals. Instead, he supports finding alternate funding solutions.

“The fact that Nancy Pelosi can’t get her act together to make progress on an infrastructure bill means we can’t get federal funding for projects like the Mobile River Bridge,” Pringle said in a statement. “As your next congressman, I’ll stand with President Trump and go toe to toe with liberal [D]emocrats to fight for the citizens of my district.”

“The citizens of Southwest Alabama deserve the ability to get between work and home every day without the added burden of $12 or more a day. This plan is nothing more than an added tax on our local families,” he concluded.

The trip to Pelosi’s office came three days after Pringle and the entire Mobile County delegation in the Alabama legislature sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey opposing the toll, which has been proposed by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to fund the project.

“A toll would have a detrimental impact on individuals and families that we represent in the greater Mobile area,” the legislators wrote. “A toll could cost an individual hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year, which would be a huge financial burden on many of our constituents.”

They added, “We are certainly grateful that the bridge will be built, and hope that other funding possibilities will be explored to pay for its construction. Allow recreational users from out of state to pay the toll, not the working men and women of Mobile and Baldwin counties.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Byrne offers to pay airfare for AOC, ‘The Squad’ to go live in Venezuela

(B. Byrne/Facebook, 60 Minutes/YouTube, WH/Flickr)

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), one of Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates in the 2020 cycle, is siding with President Donald Trump in his feud with the four Democratic freshman congresswomen who comprise “The Squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).

Over the weekend, Trump drew criticism after tweeting The Squad should “go back [to the countries] from which they came.”

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Monday, Byrne offered to pay the airfare for the four far-left Democrats to go live in Venezuela “so they can enjoy their failed Socialist Paradise.”

Byrne said, “I agree with President Trump that America is an exceptional country, and I’m proud to live here.”

“If AOC and the crew of Socialist Democrats are so angry with our country, then I’m offering to pay for their ticket to Venezuela so they can enjoy their failed Socialist Paradise,” he concluded.

Byrne then posted a video on Twitter of Trump reinforcing his initial message.

Trump also doubled down in a slew of tweets on Monday morning, — and then again in the afternoon.

RELATED: Merrill off to hot fundraising start, Moore off the pace

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Watch: CEO of Alabama rocket maker reflects on Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary

(ULA/Contributed, PIxabay, YHN)

While United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno now sits at the summit of the space industry, spearheading the manufacturing juggernaut that makes rockets in Decatur, his journey began a half-century ago with one thing: a child’s dream.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Bruno discussed the path he took to get to this point, with his life story singing out as an encapsulation of the “American Dream.”

It all started with the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, with Bruno reflecting on the 50th anniversary of him being a little boy in rural California and being fixated to the TV, watching the landing starry-eyed at a neighbor’s ranch, as if it were yesterday.

“It was magical,” he told Fox News. “The neighbors had the biggest TV set, so we were all there – all the kids were there, all the adults were there. Everybody just held their breath, it was the most exciting thing to be participating in.”

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The landing’s anniversary is on Saturday, July 20.

However, the majesty of that moment was even surpassed by the launch a few days earlier on July 16, Bruno said.

“It was the most incredible thing that I had ever seen – the power, the complexity,” he emphasized. “I thought that it was the most ultimate scientific marvel when I saw that thing go – I still think that, all these years later.”

Inspired by the historic mission, it was not long before Bruno was building his own makeshift rockets, a precursor to his storied career.

“Maybe the following summer, I was still obsessed with rockets, that’s when I built my first one,” he explained.

Using 80-year-old dynamite and old wrought iron bars he found at the back of his family’s farm, an eight-year-old Bruno set about assembling the dangerous projectiles.

Bruno quipped, “I am proud to tell you that some of my rockets made it some of the way off the ground before detonating and I lived to tell the story!”

A former general manager of Lockheed Martin Strategic and Missile Defense Systems, Bruno became CEO of ULA in 2014. Now, the work done by Bruno and his company on a daily basis in North Alabama is helping pave the way for the next generation of space fanatics and rocket scientists, one dream at a time.

ULA is integrally involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which will take American astronauts back into space on missions launched from U.S. soil via ULA’s Atlas V rocket rather than a previously used Russian-made spacecraft.

“Human spaceflight can inspire the public and inspire scientists in a way that no other activity can, and humans can do things in space relative to research and relative to coping with surprises and discoveries that robotic exploration cannot,” Bruno stressed. “And it means so much to us to have human spaceflight [launch] from American soil. Returning Americans to space — I cannot begin to tell you what that means to myself and my team.”

Watch here or below:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Merrill off to hot fundraising start, Moore off the pace

(J. Merrill/Twitter, Stand with Roy Moore/Facebook, YHN)

Secretary of State John Merrill and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore on Monday became the latest of Alabama’s 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidates to release their second quarter fundraising numbers, with the results on the opposite end of the spectrum.

According to his own social media posts, Merrill raised $217,000 in just the 12 days from becoming a candidate and the end of June, concluding the quarter with over $215,000 cash on hand. Merrill formally announced on June 25 after initially filing as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) seven days prior.

“No other campaign has raised as much in such a short period of time. Alabama wants a proven conservative winner in the United States Senate and only our campaign will give them that opportunity!” Merrill said.

On the other hand, Moore raised $16,964 in the quarter after announcing his bid on June 20, per his FEC filing. The 2017 nominee has $16,224 on hand as of June 30.

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While Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) raised the most of the GOP Senate candidates during the second quarter, Merrill’s initial fundraising pace now leads the pack.

Last quarter, which began April 1, Byrne raised over $750,000. As of the quarter’s end, he has almost $2.5 million cash on hand in his Senate account after entering the second quarter with slightly over $2 million.

Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville’s and State Rep. Arnold Mooney’s (R-Indian Springs) second quarter fundraising numbers were also strong.

Tuberville raised just over $420,000 last quarter, while Mooney brought in a bit under $300,000. Tuberville also loaned his campaign an additional $1 million, putting his cash-on-hand at over $1.3 million at the quarter’s end after expenses.

Mooney’s campaign has emphasized that their $300,000 haul came just over a 30-day period, as Mooney himself did not start making fundraising calls and personal overtures until the end of the Alabama legislature’s 2019 regular session. However, it should be noted that he announced on May 6 and his campaign sent out a direct fundraising email on May 9.

Tuberville entered the race on April 6 but did not have a fundraiser on staff until a few weeks into his bid.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Latest round of Alabama rural broadband grants announced — ‘Will open the way’

(Gov. Kay Ivey/Flickr, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that she has awarded six grants totaling over $1.14 million to provide access to high-speed internet in several of the state’s rural communities.

The grants are the second round of awards presented by Ivey under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund. In the latest round, some providers were awarded more than one grant to provide service in different areas.

“Alabama’s rural residents not only want, but need to be on a super highway when it comes to technology,” Ivey said in a statement.

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“Access to high-speed internet in our rural areas will open the way to improved educational opportunities, economic development projects and better health-care services,” the governor concluded. “I am very proud to award these grants to expand access to affordable high-speed internet in these communities.”

Grants awarded and coverage areas as follows:

• Roanoke Telephone Co. Inc. – $79,239 for coverage in the Five Points community in Chambers County. The project will involve more than three square miles and will include 176 households.

• R.M. Greene Inc. of Phenix City – $4,320 for coverage in the Pittsview community and in Russell County. Twenty-three households are included in the coverage area.

• R.M. Greene Inc. of Phenix City – $50,712 to provide coverage in the Dixie area in Russell County. The area includes 215 residences, two businesses and a school.

• Troy Cablevision Inc. – $575,115 for connectivity in multiple areas in Houston County (near Cottonwood and Gordon; and between Webb and Columbia) and Geneva County (near Slocomb, Coffee Springs, Geneva and Samson). The project will cover 79 miles and provide connectivity for 878 residences, 76 businesses and three community locations (like schools, libraries, fire stations and community centers).

• Troy Cablevision Inc. – $348,885 for service in Crenshaw County (near Rutledge/Luverne), Pike County (near Brundidge, Banks and Goshen) and northeast Coffee County. The project will cover 52 miles and provide connectivity for 405 households, 33 businesses and two community and public safety locations.

• Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative Inc. of Rainsville – $88,668 to provide service in the Fabius and Maxwell communities near Stevenson in Jackson County, serving 47 households and one business.

The fund was created through legislation sponsored by State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and signed into law by Ivey during the Alabama Legislature’s 2018 regular session. The first round of grants was awarded earlier this year. The legislature then passed a bill updating the law during the 2019 regular session.

The Broadband Accessibility Fund provides grants for service providers to supply high-speed internet services in unincorporated areas or communities with 25,000 people or less. Under the law, grant awards cannot exceed 20 percent of the total cost of a project.

A separate major piece of broadband legislation was successfully championed by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) this year. He is also supportive of the Broadband Accessibility Fund.

“Governor Ivey has led the way to improve rural Alabama on many issues, none more important than connectivity to technology. Alabama is committed to improving our rural areas,” Shedd commented.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) is responsible for administering the Broadband Accessibility Fund.

“Like public water and sewer services, high-speed internet is an important piece of infrastructure that people, especially in urban areas, can take for granted,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell emphasized. “Providing these services in rural communities improves lives, and ADECA is proud to be a part of this important process.”

RELATED: 2019 Yellowhammer ‘News Shapers’ series continues with its rural broadband edition

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Defense expertise helping Huntsville’s Dynetics become space juggernaut

(Dynetics/Facebook, YHN)

Since being founded in the Rocket City in 1974, Dynetics has spent the last 45 years becoming an unquestioned worldwide leader in the defense, intelligence and aerospace industries.

With the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission to the Moon being celebrated this week, it is especially fitting that Dynetics recently cemented its rise in the space sector, too.

This ascent has taken place quickly, really over the past decade. It all started in 2009, when Dynetics first expanded its state-of-the-art capabilities to include the space sector, shocking longtime industry leaders with the success of its Fast, Affordable, Scientific, SATellite (FASTSAT) small satellite.

From that initial milestone, Dynetics has built a reputation as an Alabama-based company that provides reliable, rapid and efficient space solutions.

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In a statement, Dynetics Vice President for Space Systems Kim Doering explained, “Dynetics has a rich heritage in defense and intelligence, and really what we needed to do in the last few years was translate what we’ve done for those government contractors into ‘NASA speak’ and demonstrate that the rigor that we place on weapons systems development and things we do for the warfighter, that those are mission critical systems, just like the systems that support astronauts.”

The company has done just that, continuing to build a reputation on such contracts as the NASA/Boeing Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage Exhaust Gas Heat Exchanger, NASA/Radiance SLS Core Stage Pathfinder and NASA SLS Universal Stage Adapter.

Additionally, in the commercial sector, Dynetics has supported United Launch Alliance (ULA) to test the Vulcan.

Then, in November, Dynetics was also selected to develop small satellites for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) Technical Center program — Lonestar.

Now, Dynetics says their “next goal” is to “become the ‘go-to’ propulsion provider for partners in both government and industry.”

They are well on their way to doing just that, as three recent contract awards regarding lunar exploration architecture exemplify.

First, Dynetics was chosen to provide the propulsion system for Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, which is scheduled to land on the Moon in 2020.

The company is also a key player in NASA’s Artemis Program, which is the United States’ plan to return human beings to the Moon by 2024. Dynetics was one of eleven companies selected to study and build five descent stage prototypes for a new human lunar lander.

And, as reported by Yellowhammer News last week, Dynetics is now playing a key role in Maxar’s plan for NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a vital part of Artemis’ success, as well as future expeditions to Mars. Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element of Gateway and aid establishment of a sustainable lunar presence.

So, as humankind fondly looks backwards upon one of history’s greatest accomplishments this week, Alabamians should be proud to know that the future of space exploration is in good hands, with Marshall Space Flight Center and companies like Dynetics helping turn dreams into reality.

“At Dynetics, we love challenges, and there is a spirit of tackling anything that comes in,” Doering concluded. “It’s an exciting time to be here.”

View a detailed timeline of Dynetics’ rise in the space sector over the last decade here.

RELATED: Alabama: The ‘backbone of national security space launch’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Alabama high school students’ experiment set to launch to International Space Station

(NASA/Twitter)

One local public education system in Alabama is helping give a new meaning to the phrase, “The sky’s the limit.”

Students from Winfield City High School are set to have their experiment launch on Sunday to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

SpaceX-18 is set to depart Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:32 p.m. EDT on July 21 with the payload designated “SSEP15 – Gemini.” This signifies SSEP’s 15th overall flight opportunity and is the 13th SSEP mission to the ISS. NanoRacks handles stowage of the payload on the spacecraft.

The launch will come the day after the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Student experiments were chosen from around the Western Hemisphere through a process that began in the fall of 2018.

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Entitled “Purification of Water in Microgravity,” Winfield’s experiment will join experiments from 39 other communities in being tested in a laboratory setting aboard the ISS over an approximately four-week period.

Winfield’s proposal summary as follows:

The recent discovery of water on Mars has opened a possibility of new ways that the life sustaining liquid can be obtained in space travel. This new method would rely on collecting water from space bodies that are not our own. The only problem with this method is determining if this water would be safe to drink. Our team is proposing to study if microgravity has any effect on the purification of water. We would collect water from a non-sterile source, like a pond and mix it with purification tablets. Next, we would test the water to see if anything harmful survived.

The Winfield 12th grade students designated as co-principal investigators on the experiment are Luke Clark, Tanner Edmond, Davis Holdbrooks, Luke Jungels and Savannah Williamson. Jennifer Birmingham is their teacher facilitator.

Winfield’s SSEP students precisely measuring the amount of iodine tablet for their Water Purification experiment. (Contributed)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), whose district includes Winfield, told Yellowhammer News that he is proud of his young constituents.

“It’s great to see these students engaging in this type of science,” the congressman said. “I congratulate them and their teachers at Winfield for participating in this program.”

“It also shows how space applications have a direct impact on the quality of life back here on earth. I look forward to following their experiment and seeing its outcome,” Aderholt concluded.

SpaceX-18 is slated to berth at the ISS one to four days after launching.

Read more about “SSEP Mission 13 to ISS” here.

Winfield City Schools also was represented on “SSEP Mission 12 to ISS” last year, when Winfield Middle School students saw their experiment make the trip.

Watch:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 week ago

House-passed NDAA contains provisions detrimental to Alabama’s aerospace industry, national security

(ULA, Army, YHN)

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed H.R. 2500, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has been criticized as “hyper-partisan.”

The NDAA passed the House 220-197, with Democrats voting in favor of the legislation 220-8 while Republicans unanimously voted against. Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), in a statement, even said the measure “would better be called the Non-Defense Authorization Act.”

While President Donald Trump’s administration and other congressional Republicans have also slammed the House version of the critical legislation as being detrimental to national security, there is one glaring provision that especially hurts Alabama’s interests.

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As previously reported by Yellowhammer News, the now House-passed version of the NDAA contains a measure inserted into the legislation by a powerful Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), that would likely have a negative impact on Alabama’s aerospace industry, which has been heavily involved in the Air Force’s national security space launch program.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal and numerous manufacturers and suppliers located in the Yellowhammer State have taken on an elevated role in the effort.

An industry source has previously noted that maintaining the planned path helps solidify the state’s position even further because of the amount of investments that members of its own industry have already made in the program.

The program, called Launch Services Agreement (LSA), awarded three companies the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for use in national security space missions under public-private partnerships.

News of the award to carry national security payloads brought praise from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and others.

The companies entered into LSA with the understanding that certain performance requirements were necessary to participate in a second phase of the program where the Air Force would only call on the top two providers.

As a result, companies became incentivized to make substantial investments for the opportunity to participate in the second phase.

However, Smith’s language contained in the House-passed NDAA now limits the number of launches under the original LSA to 29; attempts to award $500 million to a company that did not make the first cut under the LSA; and mandates that the Air Force must report back to Congress before it awards a contract in 2020.

While Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) in a release Friday hailed the inclusion of a provision technically keeping LSA on schedule, the requirement of getting congressional reapproval next year would, unfortunately, lead to increased chances that more roadblocks would pop up that could ultimately end up delaying things.

Yellowhammer News previously received a copy of an Air Force memo outlining the reasons why it opposes Smith’s changes to the process. Its chief concerns are that the changes would not reward competition and would fail to meet national security needs.

This was also reflected in the Statement of Administration policy, released by the Trump administration.

Key passage from the Statement of Administration policy as follows:

National Security Space Launch Program (Section 1601). The Administration strongly objects to this provision as it would increase mission risk for the Nation’s national security satellites. After careful and considered study, DOD determined that a contract for national security space launch requirements over the course of five years would optimize warfighter flexibility, minimizes mission risk, and provides exceptional value to the taxpayer. It would also align with the conclusion of the current generation of several satellite architectures. Confining Phase 2 to fewer missions would increase per-launch cost while simultaneously introducing risk and costs for some intelligence payloads. Finally, notifying Congress prior to a contract would be a departure from long-standing tradition and might put DOD at a greater risk of a protest.

Speaking on the House-passed NDAA, Byrne added, “[E]xtremist Democrat provisions will directly harm Alabama’s strong national defense footprint.”

The Senate, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, already passed its own version of the NDAA. The next step will be for a conference committee comprised of members of both chambers to meet and reconcile the two significantly different versions.

Brooks commented, “It is unfortunate Socialist Democrats refused to work in a bipartisan manner— as Republicans did when we held the House majority— to craft a bill that both Republicans and Democrats could support. After voting ‘No’ on the FY20 NDAA in the Armed Services Committee, I held out hope the bill would be improved on the House floor. Unfortunately, the bill was made even worse by radical Democrat amendments that were accepted and pro-defense Republican Amendments that were rejected by the majority party.”

“Maybe the eventual Senate-House compromise bill will be worthy of a ‘Yes’ vote,” he continued. “Such is life in a House of Representatives governed by radical Socialist Democrats, many of whom consider Nancy Pelosi ‘too conservative’ to be House Speaker.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn