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.

1 day ago

Cavanaugh blasts Biden energy policy – ‘Killing jobs is not unifying’

(Joe Biden/Facebook, Twinkle Cavanaugh Campaign/Contributed, BOEM/Flickr, YHN)

President Joe Biden has already succumbed to the wishes of liberal environmentalists and gone against his calls for unity, according to Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh.

In a conversation with Yellowhammer News, Cavanaugh reacted to Biden’s executive orders canceling the Keystone XL oil pipeline and placing the United States back in the Paris climate agreement.

“It’s telling that Joe Biden’s first move is to kill tens of thousands of American jobs when he scuttled the Keystone pipeline,” pronounced Cavanaugh. “What this says is that he doesn’t care about unity and strengthening the American economy, and that he cares about appeasing a small group of liberal radicals whose priorities are out of touch with the rest of America.”

Within hours of being sworn into the office, Biden issued an executive order withdrawing the permits for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and reversing a key energy initiative bolstered during the Trump administration.

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The pipeline, which would have ensured fast delivery of critical oil reserves to Gulf Coast refineries, has long been the object of environmentalist scorn.

Cavanaugh sees its cancellation as bad for the economy and a harbinger of things to come during the Biden administration.

“We are sitting on 250 years of coal and massive amounts of oil and gas in this country,” she outlined. “The very best thing for our economy and American families is to use it. All sources of energy must be at our disposal. That’s how we keep costs down for families here in Alabama, and that’s how we grow our economy.”

RELATED: Cavanaugh sees obstacles on road to recovery — ‘More regulations are poisonous to job growth’

In addition to his order on the Keystone pipeline, Biden also tied the United States back into the Paris climate accord, an international pact requiring member countries to meet certain standards relating to energy production.

“Handcuffing our country to all these other socialist economies is terrible for Alabama,” Cavanaugh remarked when asked about the effect of rejoining the Paris agreement. “First of all, we have now forfeited our sovereignty as a nation. We’re letting all these European countries dictate our energy policy. They no more care about the environment than they do our high school football scores. Since they can’t beat our economy and our natural resources, they simply want to drag us down to their level.”

As she enters a new term after having received more than 1.38 million votes, a record for state officials, Cavanaugh says she is not surprised by the new administration’s moves on energy policy.

“We fought against all of this during the Obama-Biden administration,” she explained. “When Trump took office he untangled all of these regulations. Guess what happened? We had the best economy in the history of our country.”

Cavanaugh believes environmentalists influencing Biden have a model in mind for his policy approach.

“California officials are saying that their state is going to be the blueprint for the rest of the U.S.,” she said. “Well, California’s energy policy is an unmitigated disaster. California’s catering to the radical left resulted in huge rolling blackouts this summer with no real fix for the problems they have created.”

RELATED: Alabama leaders cite poor energy decisions as cause of California’s rolling blackouts

“The reality is that on day one Joe Biden showed that he is too weak to stand up to the radical left and it is going to cost our economy and countless people their jobs,” she concluded. “Killing jobs is not unifying.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Auburn begins new semester as move to oppose in-person classes sputters out

(Auburn University/YouTube)

Auburn University’s decision to continue in-person learning for the spring semester received affirmation on Tuesday when the school’s faculty failed to take action on a no-confidence vote on Provost Bill Hardgrave.

Faculty member Michael Stern, a professor of economics, had moved for the vote to express his own displeasure at the university’s decision to return to in-person classes.

As provost, Hardgrave serves as the chief academic officer for the institution.

Auburn’s return-to-school plan had been praised by medical professionals, including by White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx during her September visit to the campus.

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Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Auburn University President Jay Gogue stated during a December interview with the Opelika-Auburn News that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

Earlier this week, 40 university professors signed onto a statement denouncing the vote. They stated their belief that “a no-confidence vote is inappropriate and will be damaging to our students, our faculty, and our university.”

As many as 1,300 people took part in the virtual meeting, according to participants.

Rules of order took precedent, and the issue died when more than 67% of the participants objected to consideration of Stern’s motion.

Classes for Auburn students began on Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Auburn professors denounce move against administration in battle over in-person classes

(Auburn University, YHN)

At least 40 Auburn University professors have now stated their opposition to a no-confidence vote directed at Provost Bill Hardgrave. The vote had been called by one of the school’s faculty members to express his personal discontent with Auburn’s decision to continue offering in-person classes this year.

While the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols for on-campus activities have been lauded by national health officials, and have mirrored those of other institutions in the state, faculty member Michael Stern chose to voice his disapproval of in-person learning by calling for a no-confidence vote on Hardgrave by the University Senate. As provost, Hardgrave acts as the university’s chief academic officer.

In response to Stern’s move, dozens of university professors have signed onto a statement against the vote.

In a document provided to Yellowhammer News, faculty members from various academic departments stated their belief that “a no-confidence vote is inappropriate and will be damaging to our students, our faculty, and our university.”

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Joining other colleges and universities around the state, Auburn opened up its campus for in-person learning last fall and continued that opportunity for students with the start of classes on Monday.

The school’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus are a product of the guidance the school has received from a wide array of health officials, according to Auburn University President Jay Gogue.

In a December video interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gogue outlined that the COVID-19 protocols established by the university resulted from consultations with those health officials, including the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx commended the Auburn administration for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis during a September visit to the campus.

As for the health and safety measures implemented by Auburn, Gogue cited Birx’s endorsement of Auburn’s work as something which would allow students, faculty and parents to have increased confidence.

He recalled Birx telling members of the administration, “’Auburn you planned well, you had contingency plans, and you had contingency plans for your contingency plans.’”

This is not the first time that Stern, a professor in the Department of Economics, has positioned himself as an adversary of Auburn. He sued the university in September 2018 alleging unfair treatment. In November of that year, he amended his lawsuit to include individual members of the Auburn administration, including Hardgrave.

That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Gogue stated that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

“The health and safety will drive whether or not any of that occurs,” he concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Auburn professor opposes in-person classes despite university’s renowned health protocols

(Auburn University/Flickr)

Auburn University has drawn praise in recent months from national health officials for its COVID-19 safety protocols for on-campus activities. But that has not stopped one faculty member from calling for a vote among his colleagues to express opposition to in-person classes.

Last summer, Auburn joined the University of Alabama System (UA System), Troy University and other colleges and universities around Alabama in successfully launching fall semesters with in-person learning.

White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx commended the Auburn administration for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis during a September visit to the campus.

The school’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while offering in-person learning for its students, are a product of the guidance the school has received from a wide array of health officials, according to Auburn University President Jay Gogue.

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In a December video interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gogue outlined that the COVID-19 protocols established by the university resulted from consultations with those health officials, including the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

However, the health and safety measures taken by the school have fallen below the standards of faculty member Michael Stern.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Stern, a professor in the Department of Economics, has voiced his opposition to Auburn’s return to in-person learning by calling for a no-confidence vote by the University Senate on Provost Bill Hardgrave. As provost, Hardgrave acts as the university’s chief academic officer.

This is not the first time Stern has been an adversary of the school for which he works. He sued the university in 2018 alleging unfair treatment by Auburn’s administration. That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

As for the health and safety measures implemented by Auburn, Gogue cited Birx’s endorsement of Auburn’s work as something which would allow students, faculty and parents to have increased confidence.

He recalled Birx telling members of the administration, “’Auburn you planned well, you had contingency plans, and you had contingency plans for your contingency plans.’”

Bringing students back to class on campus was a challenge shared by other institutions of higher learning in the Yellowhammer State.

Under the guidance of Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine, the UA System successfully executed a return-to-school plan at each of its three institutions.

UA System officials view Auburn’s protocols as being consistent with their own.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Gogue stated that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

“The health and safety will drive whether or not any of that occurs,” he concluded.

Auburn begins classes Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia.

1 month ago

Cavanaugh offers support for challenge to Electoral College vote — ‘This is about trust in our democracy’

(Twinkle Cavanaugh Campaign/Contributed, White House/Flickr, Pixabay, YHN)

Twinkle Cavanaugh voiced her support this week for a congressional challenge to the results of the Electoral College.

In a conversation with Yellowhammer News, the president of the Alabama Public Service Commission emphasized the need for voters across the country to feel confident in knowing the presidential election was fairly administered.

“We have to restore trust in the integrity of our elections,” she asserted. “More than three out of every four people who voted for President Trump believe the election was stolen from him. As a nation, we cannot let that kind of distrust fester without further examining our election process.”

The polling data Cavanaugh referred to showed that 77% of Trump voters believe the election was stolen from him. More than one-third of all voters shared that same sentiment, according to the poll.

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Cavanaugh, whose 1.39 million votes in November were the most in Alabama history for a non-presidential candidate, sees recent moves by other elected officials in Alabama as positive steps toward guaranteeing the proper examination of the results.

“I’ve been glad to see some of our leaders in Alabama take a stand for election integrity,” she noted. “Attorney General Marshall joined the lawsuit initiated by Texas, and Congressman Brooks has promised to contest the electoral college votes on the floor of the House. I hope other members of the delegation join in the effort.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) has announced that he will challenge the Electoral College votes of several states on January 6. The formal support of at least one senator will be needed to force floor debate and votes by each chamber on the respective states in question. Under the current results of voting by electors last week, former Vice President Joe Biden would be installed as president on January 20.

In addition to citing irregularities in certain states with late reporting and technological breakdowns, Cavanaugh believes recent history lends to the credibility of the effort.

“I saw Franklin Graham tweeting the other day about how President Trump has been proven correct in so many things which liberals and the media fought against,” she said. “Reverend Graham pointed out that President Trump was right about false accusations from the media. He was right about there being no Russian collusion. He was right about his campaign being spied on by the Obama-Biden Administration. So recent history should tell us that President Trump is right when he says this election was stolen from him.”

When asked what factor weighs the strongest in her decision to support a challenge, she highlighted again her view of the importance of trust among voters.

“This is about trust in our democracy,” she concluded. “This is about having confidence in the integrity of our elections. We have to continue to fight to preserve everything that goes with the bedrock constitutional right to vote. The future of our country depends on it.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Alabama’s ULA completes another successful launch for National Reconnaissance Office

(ULA/Twitter)

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) continued its service to the nation with the successful launch of another national security space mission.

A ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:09 p.m. local time on Thursday.

The NRO is a joint Department of Defense-Intelligence Community organization and is tasked with operating the nation’s intelligence satellites used for national security.

ULA has a long history of providing the NRO and other members of America’s intelligence community with launch capabilities.

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“We are honored to launch the first payload from the newly renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs in a release from the company. “I want to thank our mission partners for their collaboration and teamwork as we worked through technical challenges that culminated in the launch of this critical national security payload. The Delta IV Heavy again demonstrated its success as the nation’s proven heavy lift vehicle, through its unique capability to deliver this mission to orbit due to a combination of performance and fairing size.”

RELATED: Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

This is the second mission in recent weeks that ULA has completed on behalf of NRO.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket, according to the company, is utilized for delivering high-priority missions for the U.S. Space Force, NRO and NASA. The vehicle also launched NASA’s Orion capsule on its first orbital test flight and sent the Parker Solar Probe on its journey to become the fastest spacecraft in history while surfing through the sun’s atmosphere.

The rocket, built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot manufacturing facility in Decatur, is comprised of three common core boosters each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

This was ULA’s 142nd mission. The company has enjoyed a 100% launch success rate.

RELATED: ULA’s Tory Bruno on training 21st century workforce — ‘Higher education is the most powerful force we have’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Bama gunning for greatest season ever; #NeverDabo trends again; Malzahn within reach of a milestone, maybe

(Pixabay, YHN)

Nick Saban’s absence from the sidelines of the Iron Bowl may only add to the legend of what is unfolding as the best season ever played by a college football team.

Similar banter occurred last year in the midst of LSU’s run to the national title. It seemed legitimate to at least consider it given the production on the offensive side of the ball. Yet, one cannot help but think much of the LSU discussion happened because the bar was set so low going into the 2019 season. The shock and surprise that Ed Orgeron and a previously average transfer quarterback could put it all together made the feat seem that much bigger.

There has been no element of surprise in Tuscaloosa, which makes for a more solid case.

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Saban, through various coordinators, has recently installed some of the most explosive offenses in the country year after year. And the old defensive wizard has fielded in 2020 a unit with elite athleticism and speed.

After six games last year, LSU’s offense was averaging 536 total yards per game. In the same amount of games this season, Alabama’s offense is racking up 555 yards per game.

Through six games, Mac Jones has a passing efficiency rating of 210.3. Joe Burrow’s rating was 204.5 at the same point last season. Burrow was leading the nation in completion percentage after six games, in what would end up being a Heisman Trophy-winning season, at 78.8%. Jones is completing 78.5% of his passes.

With an offense churning out those kind of historic numbers, not much is required of the other side of the ball.

Excluding its performance against Ole Miss, which has proven to be an aberration, the Tide is a top 25 defense with a ton of disruptive potential on the back end. This is a nearly identical spot at which LSU sat last year.

Alabama is 7-0 with everything, including history, out in front.

#NeverDabo

For a minute this week, all fanbases united against Dabo Swinney.

Dabo had the audacity to stand up for his team and his program after his Clemson Tigers hauled all the way to Tallahassee only to have their game against the hometown Seminoles canceled.

Florida State did not feel comfortable with Clemson’s health protocols. Dabo, in turn, expressed his disappointment with the entire situation.

No doubt Dabo has some problems on the field that would seem to be more pressing, including a secondary devoid of athleticism and an offensive line which is downright bad. Clemson’s roster pales in comparison to Alabama’s.

Still, Dabo committed a notable criminal act this week which brought him the flack.

His crime was that he spoke like a football coach.

Dabo did not get the memo that you may only speak about college football in 2020 if your remarks include an irrational fear of the virus.

He did what football coaches have done for as long as the ball has been snapped, he spoke to his team through the media.

After taking a tough loss against Notre Dame and spending two weeks preparing to get back on its feet, Dabo’s Tigers got the rug pulled out from under them less than two hours before kickoff. In seeking to get his players’ minds right and motivated for another week of practice, Dabo teed off on FSU’s decision to cancel the game and vigorously defended his program’s commitment to safety. Not to mention that in the days leading up to the initial college football rankings, he used the opportunity to create a diversion of focus.

Tide fans jumped in quickly to sit in reserved #NeverDabo seats.

Reminded of the fact that they have never liked Dabo, Auburn fans saw this week’s events as a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Then there was the national media who has never liked Dabo and still thinks the entire season should have been canceled.

Here is an idea, maybe it is possible to coach hard, motivate your players, stand up for your team and be diligent in how you operate your program.

None of those things are mutually exclusive.

Let’s get to a special Iron Bowl edition of all underdog picks.

BLACK FRIDAY

UCF (-25) at South Florida: Someone famous once said, “There’s an old saying…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, can’t get fooled again.” Well, he would not like what is about to happen here. We have taken South Florida as a big underdog at home once before, and it did not end well for us or the Bulls. UCF is coming off an emotional fourth quarter loss to No. 7 Cincinnati. First-year head coach Jeff Scott is building a foundation in Tampa. It continues today. Can’t get fooled again.

The pick: UCF 40, South Florida 20

No. 2 Notre Dame (-5.5) at No. 19 North Carolina: Believe it or not, North Carolina has been a bit of a disappointment this season. It will be interesting to see just how many more years Mack Brown is willing to commit to his second trip through Chapel Hill. If the over/under is 2 more seasons, we will take the under. Going back even further than his brother’s time at UAB, Brown has always been a big game coach. Bryan Kelly and the Irish will be happy to get out alive.

The pick: Notre Dame 43, North Carolina 40

No. 13 Iowa State at No. 17 Texas (-1): Every once in a while college football fans are forced to stop and think about the fact that Tom Herman coaches at Texas and Matt Campbell is the head man at Iowa State. It should be the other way around. While Iowa State is incredibly well-coached, Texas probably has the superior 1-22. Probably.

The pick: Iowa State 27, Texas 23

No. 15. Oregon (-14) at Oregon State: Do enough people in the state of Oregon really care about college football to warrant calling this rivalry “The Civil War”? Doubtful. One of the more predictable aspects of this season is that Oregon misses Justin Herbert.

The pick: Oregon 26, Oregon State 24

THE BASICS

Pittsburgh at No. 3 Clemson (-25): Even Dabo cannot think Clemson is the third-best team in the country. Instead of complaining about Dabo’s FSU rant, maybe the warriors in the national sports media should be asking for a playoff committee competency hearing. The Panthers have oddly been a tough out for Clemson in Death Valley.

The pick: Clemson 30, Pittsburgh 20

No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-17) at Texas State: We have had our eye on this game for more than a few minutes. Coastal Carolina comes off of a big win against rival Appalachian State and now must make the cross country trek to San Marcos, which is not the easiest outpost to reach. Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator, and current Texas State head coach, Jake Spivatal is seeing his Bobcats struggle through a tragic week, though. Defensive back Khambrail Winters was fatally shot on Tuesday during a drug deal gone bad. Not an easy situation for Spivatal.

The pick: Coastal Carolina 33, Texas State 29

THE IRON BOWL

No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-24.5): An Auburn win would mean that head coach Gus Malzahn takes sole possession of the winningest record against Nick Saban during his time at Alabama. Or would he? Malzahn’s overall record lends to the belief that he is the best coach to ever walk the turf at Jordan-Hare. The air would get a lot thinner if Malzahn were to pick up his fourth victory over Saban. No one else has accomplished that. But does a win Saturday count against Saban? The Tide head coach’s COVID-induced absence on the sideline could call that into question. Malzahn and his teams have never been intimidated by Alabama. There is no reason to think any different this weekend.

The pick: Alabama 44, Auburn 32

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Alabama’s ULA launches another national security space mission

ULA/Flickr

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) continued its 100% mission success rate when it launched another national security space mission on Friday evening.

Carrying the NROL-101 mission for that National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), ULA’s Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with 1.8 million pounds of thrust.

The NRO is a joint Department of Defense-Intelligence Community organization and is tasked with operating the nation’s intelligence satellites used for national security.

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ULA has a long history of providing the NRO and other members of America’s intelligence community with launch capabilities.

Gary Wentz, vice president of Government and Commercial Programs for ULA, recognized these partnerships in a statement from the company.

“Thank you to our mission partners, the NRO and the United States Space Force for their continued confidence and partnership with ULA,” said Wentz. “This launch was the inaugural launch of our new GEM 63 solid rocket motors, an instrumental step for ULA to build flight experience in preparation for the Vulcan Centaur, our next generation launch vehicle.”

The mission launched on an Atlas V 531, built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot manufacturing facility in Decatur, included a 17-foot payload fairing.

ULA’s president and CEO, Tory Bruno, recently spoke of the need for America to continue developing a national security space strategy.

RELATED: Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

He said such a strategy needs to take into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” Bruno elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40, with the smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

This was the 86th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the 71st Atlas V to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida.

ULA’s next launch is the NROL-44 mission for the NRO.

RELATED: ULA’s Tory Bruno on training 21st century workforce — ‘Higher education is the most powerful force we have’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Predictions for the remainder of the college football season, picks for this week’s games

(Clemson Athletics/Contributed, Alabama Athletics/Contributed, Auburn Football, The Heisman Trophy/Facebook, YHN)

The 2020 college football season has already nudged past the halfway point. But the numerous COVID-related postponements and cancellations give this Saturday the feel of a mid-season intermission.

That means it is a good time to offer up a few predictions for the rest of the year.

Prediction #1: Mac Jones will win the Heisman Trophy.

The Crimson Tide signal-caller is currently edging out Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in ESPN’s Heisman Watch. Jones is putting up historic numbers and has the playmakers at his disposal to finish the season the way he started — on a tear. After the legendary program not having a Heisman winner until 2009, Alabama could be looking at its third recipient in the last 11 years.

Prediction #2: Gus Malzahn will earn his 70th win as Auburn head coach.

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If Malzahn’s Tigers win three out of their last four during the regular season, plus a bowl victory, then that will leave him with 70 total wins, 40 of those in SEC play. Hitting that mark will also solidify Malzahn’s place as the greatest coach to ever walk the sidelines at Jordan-Hare.

Prediction #3: Clemson will fail to make the college football playoff for the first time in its existence.

We have written before about the gap between Clemson and Alabama this season. Those weaknesses in Clemson’s roster also showed up against Notre Dame last weekend. If Dabo Swinney does not give the NFL a shot during the offseason, look for his Tigers to be back in contention in 2021.

Prediction #4: The SEC will have two teams in the playoff.

Winning out and losing to Alabama in the SEC championship will likely earn Florida a place in the college football playoff. Notre Dame looks best-positioned from the ACC to reach the playoff, and Ohio State seems to not have a peer in the Big Ten. If Notre Dame were to slip up before its championship game, the clamoring for a Group of 5 team, such as Cincinnati or BYU, will become loud among the national sports media.

Let’s get to some picks for this week.

The basics

Arkansas at No. 6 Florida (-17.5): Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman is out this week after testing positive for COVID-19. Would the Razorbacks’ athletic department eliminate his position if they pulled the upset without him? Fortunately for him, Pittman will not face such cost-cutting measures.

The pick: Florida 42, Arkansas 28

TCU at West Virginia (-3): We are charter members of the Neal Brown fan club dating back to his time as the head man at Troy. For years, defense and tackling were optional in Morgantown under Dana Holgerson and his Air Raid-focused teams. Brown has changed the culture, and the Mountaineers are now ranked fourth in the nation in total defense.

The pick: West Virginia 24, TCU 16

Buyer beware

No. 2 Notre Dame (-11.5) at Boston College: Euphoria spilled out across Ireland last weekend after Notre Dame beat a historically overrated Clemson team fielding no playmakers, very little defensive talent and a bad offensive line. That exuberance is the reason why Boston College has become a trendy upset pick this week. While Notre Dame would be the fifth-best team in the SEC, it will be good enough to handle the Eagles.

The pick: Notre Dame 39, Boston College 21

Colorado at Stanford (-7.5):  Does anyone really know what is happening out in the Pac-12? Even with all the modern advancements in communication platforms, tracking the Pac-12 is like trying to follow Korean baseball or a golf tournament in Dubai. We are led to believe they are playing this year, and we have heard Colorado got a big emotional victory last week against UCLA, a school which previously fired Buffaloes head coach Karl Dorrell. Word is that Stanford has been holding bootleg practices in a neighboring county due to local government lockdown rules.

The pick: Stanford 26, Colorado 7

UTEP at Texas-San Antonio (-6.5): UTEP has had some trouble getting on the field this year with canceled games against North Texas and Florida International. Nevertheless, its school president is a Yellowhammer favorite, former secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson. Her team is a stingy bunch, currently sitting 19th in the country in total defense.

The pick: UTEP 20, Texas-San Antonio 17

No. 9 Miami at Virginia Tech (-1.5): Virginia Tech might be the most inconsistent Power 5 team in the country. At least Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State have been consistently bad this year. Meanwhile, Miami still has quite a bit to play for with an outside shot to reach the ACC championship game.

The pick: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 31

Hometown heroes

South Alabama at No. 25 Louisiana (-15.5): Alabama, Auburn, Troy and UAB have all fallen victim to postponed or canceled games this weekend. So the weight of the state of Alabama falls on USA. Since its season-opening upset of Iowa State, Billy Napier’s squad has lived dangerously, winning by 10 points or fewer in its five other victories. Look for USA to represent its state honorably.

The pick: Louisiana 27, South Alabama 23

Last week: 3-2 straight up; 2-3 ATS
Season: 24-8 straight up; 18-14 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Cavanaugh, Spire team up to bring natural gas to Alabama poultry farmers

YHN

HEFLIN — Several poultry operations in East Alabama will have access to natural gas this winter thanks to a collaborative effort between Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Spire.

During a groundbreaking ceremony held at a farm near Heflin, Cavanaugh outlined what an important economic development initiative the new pipeline would be for rural Alabama. The farm, owned and operated by Eric Lovvorn, is set to be the first in the area to receive service from the new natural gas pipeline.

“Opening up a natural gas pipeline for poultry farmers will be a job-creating initiative for our state,” Cavanaugh said. “If Alabama families don’t have jobs, we’ve got a problem. In order to create those jobs you have to have infrastructure, and utilities are an essential part of that.”

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She highlighted the wide impact of the industry in rural areas, including dependent jobs in hatcheries and processing plants and in the trucking industry.

This particular project will involve two phases, the first of which began in May and will provide service to farms by mid-December. Construction of 3.5 miles of pipeline was completed in phase one.

A second phase, once approved by the Alabama Public Service Commission, would involve constructing an additional 6.75 miles of pipeline and create dozens of jobs in the process. It has the potential to provide service to several additional poultry operations, as well as other commercial and residential customers in East Alabama.

Cavanaugh, who grew up working at her grandfather’s chicken farm in South Alabama, spoke about how feedback from local farmers eventually became a significant economic development project.

She said once she knew what she wanted to see, it became a matter of seeking out someone with whom she could work to make the project happen.

“When Kyle [Rogers] came on board, I finally had a partner who would listen and think outside the box for a solution,” she explained.

Rogers, vice president of External Affairs at Spire, made note of the fact that Cavanaugh came to him with a vision for what could be done to improve the area’s infrastructure.

“She challenged me personally when I came onboard at Spire to find a way to be creative, to think outside of the box, to do something that we had not been able to do previously, which is get natural gas to this area,” Rogers remarked.

Standing outside a brand new natural gas compressor station built by Spire, Rogers pointed out that the project fit well within his company’s four guiding principles.

“First, we care about the citizens of Alabama and our customers,” he said. “Second, we support advancements. Advancing technologies and new ideas will provide the state with a more reliable and sustainable energy source. Third, is perspective. We understand our role as a utility and the foundation upon which you can build economies and you can provide affordable natural gas to citizens. Finally, we believe in collaboration. We collaborate with citizens and elected officials. Most notably, we collaborate with President Cavanaugh and her fellow commissioners to bring about these sorts of initiatives that can really play a significant role in bringing critical infrastructure to a part of the state which has not had natural gas, and that really opens a lot of opportunities.”

Spire’s delivery of natural gas will provide some much-needed relief for poultry farmers, according to an industry leader.

Johnny Adams, CEO of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, described the financial challenges a cold winter can bring to farmers.

“Gas costs in a cold winter can be outrageous if you don’t have something like natural gas,” he explained.

The poultry industry is the largest industrial employer in the state, accounting for 66% of all agriculture revenues in Alabama, according to Adams.

“This project is an example of the things we can do to support our critical industries,” Cavanaugh concluded. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and anything we can do to grow it and support rural Alabama is good for the entire state. This project will help create jobs and open up even more opportunities in the future.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Florida breaks through against Georgia? Mullen’s stability at the helm could make the difference

(Pixabay, YHN)

When the revised SEC schedule came out in August, wedding coordinators across the state rushed to book this date for their clients. With the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers idle, one significant piece of the SEC puzzle will fall into place today. The winner of the Georgia-Florida showdown in Jacksonville will presumably face Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on December 19.

While the Tide waits, let’s make some picks.

THE BASICS

No. 23 Michigan (-3.5) at No. 13 Indiana: After Michigan’s loss to in-state rival Michigan State last week, talk of the post-Harbaugh era began. Paul Finebaum nominated Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. Former almost Crimson Tide head coach Rich Rodriguez, who previously served a term in Ann Arbor, announced that Harbaugh was not the problem at Michigan. Harbaugh’s team faces off against the highest ranked Indiana team in 33 years.

The pick: Michigan 31, Indiana 20

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No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia (-3): A super smart guy recently said, “It used to be that good defense beats good offense. Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore.” This would seemingly doom Georgia in its matchup for supremacy in the SEC East. While serving as an embodiment of stability and steadiness at the helm, Florida head coach Dan Mullen is seeking his first win against the Bulldogs in this series.

The pick: Georgia 38, Florida 27

BUYER BEWARE

No. 18 SMU (-17.5) at Temple: It was not that long ago that Temple’s head coach was Matt Rhule, who now leads the Carolina Panthers. Temple is currently 1-3 with a single win coming against a dreadful South Florida squad. This will be an early kick in an empty stadium, the type of game in which SMU will be happy taking the win and getting out of town as quickly as possible.

The pick: SMU 46, Temple 30

Boston College (-15) at Syracuse: Boston College roasted Clemson during the first half of their game last week. The Eagles exposed a weak Tigers secondary. Today they square off against a Syracuse team that is weak everywhere. Syracuse head coach Dino Babers is an example of why you cannot blame coaches for moving around. Barely a minute ago he was rumored to be next in line for the USC job. Now his team is 1-6 on the season.

The pick: Boston College 27, Syracuse 21

HOMETOWN HEROES

Troy (-3.5) at Georgia Southern: The Trojans head to the iconic town of Statesboro, Georgia. Year in and year out, these are two of the most underrated Group of 5 programs in the nation.

The pick: Georgia Southern 26, Troy 24

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 4-1 ATS
Season: 21-6 straight up; 16-11 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Historic storm cleanup: Alabama Power linemen working around the clock to restore service

(Alabama Power/Twitter)

Alabama Power now has more than 300,000 customers back online after Hurricane Zeta tore through the state, and lineman from Alabama and 19 other states and Canada continue their efforts to finish restoration of power.

The damage left behind from the historic storm, which left nearly one-third of all Alabama Power customers without service, is comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, according to the company.

“Since early Thursday morning, we’ve been working to restore service for customers affected by Hurricane Zeta,” Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery, told Yellowhammer News. “We’ve made significant progress and are working through some tough conditions due to the number of downed trees and extensive damage across our state. I’m proud of our team members and their commitment to serving our customers. During this challenging time we will not stop until our customers’ service is restored,”

Alabama Power expects to have service restored to 80% of its affected customers by noon on Sunday. More than 500,000 of its customers were without service, at one time.

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Past storms have seen Alabama deploy more than 1,500 team members across the state. Those same crews were joined this week by than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from outside the state.

Service to Lamar, Franklin, Winston, Barbour, Covington, Coffee, Geneva, Dale, Houston, Henry, Clayton and Russell counties has been fully restored, while restoration for customers in the hardest hit areas of Eastern, Central and Southwestern Alabama could extend into next week.

The company issued a statement on Friday apologizing to customers for some confusion surrounding information on power status for certain locations:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Bama’s roster vs. Clemson’s; Plus, picks for Auburn-LSU showdown, red-hot Razorbacks vs. A&M

(Pixabay, YHN)

A smart guy said something silly this week.

ESPN’s David Pollack used his network’s college football podcast to announce his belief that Jaylen Waddle’s season-ending injury was fatal to the Crimson Tide’s national championship run.

“I think it’s over for Bama,” Pollack said. “I think if you’re just talking about winning a national title, I don’t think they can win a national title without [Waddle].”

While it is a bit early to dip into specific matchups, a quick roster comparison — by position group — with Alabama’s perceived closest competitor may be in order. ESPN’s playoff predictor slots the Tide as the No. 1 seed in the playoff followed by Clemson at No. 2.

Alabama versus Clemson. Let’s see how the two compare.

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Running back. Najee Harris has elevated his game to the same heights occupied by Clemson’s Travis Etienne. Stats for each of these two dynamic backs are nearly identical. While Harris has enjoyed running behind a far superior offensive line (spoiler alert), a deeper group for Bama makes the difference in grading out these units. Edge: Bama

Wide receiver. The largest gap in talent may exist here, which is what makes Pollack’s analysis so puzzling. Both teams lost their best wide receivers for the entire year, Waddle at Alabama and Justyn Ross at Clemson. If he were to switch teams, Clemson’s best remaining receiver would be the third-most talented in Tuscaloosa behind Devonta Smith and John Metchie, III. Edge: Bama

Tight end. The talent in both of these groups is pretty similar, with a slight nod to Clemson’s unit based on production so far  in 2020. Edge: Clemson

Offensive line. Another area where there is a fairly substantial gap. Alabama’s line has overpowered opponents and consistently given Mac Jones a clean pocket. Clemson has four new starters, has generally struggled to get a push in the middle and has allowed Trevor Lawrence to take some tough shots. Edge: Bama

Defensive line. This version of the Tide defensive line lacks the dominant presence of seasons past but remains serviceable. It is a group not asked to do a lot other than free up an athletic group of linebackers to make plays. Clemson’s defensive line is also not in the same class of some of the more heralded units of the Dabo Swinney era, but has a couple of true freshman with significant upside. Edge: Even

Linebacker. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables coaches this position group, and it shows. They are a group of smart overachievers. James Skalski, Baylon Spector and Jake Venables are never short on effort. But none are the type of player for which opposing offensive coordinators have to account. On the other hand, Dylan Moses, Christian Harris and Christopher Allen are a force. Freshman Will Anderson, Jr. is an athletic freak. Edge: Bama

Defensive back. The upgrade in athleticism in the back end of Alabama’s defense is noticeable this year. Patrick Surtain II can wall off his side of the field, while Daniel Wright and Malachi Moore have already recorded two interceptions each. Safety Nolan Turner, a former two-star prospect from Vestavia Hills, is now the dean of the Tigers’ defensive backfield. As a full-time starter this year, Turner is like a coach on the field. Clemson’s unit is in a bit of a rebuild after having lost two first-round draft picks from last season’s squad. Edge: Bama

Special teams. Alabama kicker Will Reichard is perfect on the year. That is a great sign, but there is naturally a little wait-and-see approach when evaluating the Tide’s kicking game. Waddle’s loss in the return game is significant. Clemson has no threats in that area. Edge: Even

Quarterback. The best debate is saved for last. Both of these quarterback rooms have raw, inexperienced 5-star freshman as backups, so this is all about the high-profile starters. Lawrence is the likely first pick in the 2021 NFL draft. But this comparison is not about who can best help the New York Jets resurrect its franchise. This is about 2020. Lawrence has thrown for 1,833 yards, including 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has completed 71% of his passes and has averaged 9.6 yards per completion. Jones has thrown for 1,905 yards, including 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has completed 79% of his passes and has averaged 13 yards per completion. We said back in August that the Crimson Tide could win a national championship with Jones at the helm. Confidence in that assertion is now sky high. Jones’ performance this season demands that he take a backseat to no one. Edge: Even

Now that we have dispensed with Pollack’s notion that the Crimson Tide are out of the national championship hunt, let’s get to some picks.

THE BASICS

LSU (-3) at Auburn: Coach O is back. His Tigers hammered South Carolina last weekend by four touchdowns. A 2:30 kick on CBS and then get back to Baton Rouge in time to go out. What could go wrong?

The pick: Auburn 36, LSU 24

Arkansas at No. 8 Texas A&M (-11.5): The Razorbacks had a bye last week, but there has been no shortage of praise heaped upon head coach Sam Pittman, and his improved team, in the intervening days. What a great story.

The pick: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 17

BUYER BEWARE

No. 15 North Carolina (-7) at Virginia: Another great story is the Mack Brown reunion tour in Chapel Hill. With a national championship ring from his time at Texas, Brown returned to North Carolina, a place he previously coached from 1988 to 1997. His Heels face off against a struggling Virginia team long on grit but short on talent.

The pick: North Carolina 26, Virginia 20

No. 16 Kansas State at West Virginia (-3.5): There are 25,000 more people living in Manhattan, Kansas, than Morgantown, West Virginia. So Kansas State head coach Chris Kleiman will not have to worry about his team being intimidated by a big-city atmosphere. This is a sneaky big game in the Neal Brown era at West Virginia.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Kansas State 19

No. 4 Notre Dame (-20) at Georgia Tech: Notre Dame head coach Bryan Kelly has made no secret about his team’s anticipation for next week’s matchup against Clemson, a team which beat Georgia Tech 73-7 a few weeks ago. With Trevor Lawrence now doubtful in that matchup after a positive COVID-19 test, the Irish can undoubtedly smell blood and will be ready to exact revenge on an embarrassing playoff loss two years ago.

The pick: Notre Dame 24, Georgia Tech 17

Last week: 4-3 straight up; 3-4 ATS
Season: 17-5 straight up; 12-10 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

(Pixabay, ULA/YouTube, YHN)

When an Alabama-built rocket powers another critical national security satellite into space next week, it will be the latest such satellite in the ever-increasing use of space to gain military advantage on the ground.

The satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, will enhance communication for America’s warfighters across the globe.

However, the United States’ ability to operate in space and leverage its potential for national security purposes could be made more difficult, according to two experts who participated in the AscendxSummit conference last week.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that foreign governments are challenging America’s space superiority, with China being at the forefront of the effort.

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“The threat has changed,” explained Wilson. “The United States is heavily dependent on space for national security, and we need to respond to that emerging threat.”

That dependence on space comes from satellites which assist U.S. military operations around the world.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40. The smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Some serve important communications functions, while others serve as mechanisms for intelligence gathering, including the ability to provide missile warnings. These satellites are trained at the Earth and employ infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

These capabilities have naturally drawn the attention of America’s adversaries.

Wilson has previously drawn attention to the threat from China with its launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite.

She said China and Russia have been developing the means to interfere with or destroy American military satellites in order to influence military operations on the ground.

Bruno expressed his belief that we stand at a pivotal moment in human history. He cited an “unprecedented set of decades that stretch out in front of us in space” with the potential to tap into near limitless resources which would allow for a self-sustaining economy on Earth.

At the same time, Bruno warned of a need for a national security space strategy which takes into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” he elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

Wilson believes it is the space prowess of the United States which has made it a target of China and other countries.

“One of the reasons why this subject continues to interest me is that America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries are seeking to develop the capability to deny us the use of space in crisis or at war,” she observed.

The White House earlier this month released a “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The document outlines how the United States will promote and protect its competitive advantage in fields which include space and military technologies.

A statement from the White House addressed the need to develop such a national strategy:

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security. The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.

When asked about the White House’s national strategy, Bruno acknowledged the country’s innovation chain is now susceptible to foreign interference in a way it never has been before.

“At least one of our adversaries has figured out, why spy when you can buy?” he remarked.

China’s ability to absorb U.S. technology and innovation is something which will demand significant attention, according to Bruno.

“There are a lot of elements to that innovation chain, and most of them are actually pretty open,” he concluded. “As a Chinese company, you can come and buy key elements of the supply chain where technologies reside. You can sponsor members of your intelligence community, or your armed forces, to go to America and receive the best STEM education on the planet and bring all of that home. You can even invest to influence companies through venture capital and even do that through shell companies so that your presence, influence and access is not as obvious. All of that is right now an open door to both of our adversaries.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Huntsville’s Diatherix a national leader in cutting-edge COVID-19 testing technology

(Eurofin/Contributed, Diatherix Laboratories/Facebook, YHN)

When reliable testing for COVID-19 became a national priority earlier this year, one company in Huntsville was already set up to take on a leading role.

Diatherix was equipped to offer testing through its cutting-edge technology, and it was able to do so in a way conducive to effective treatment of the virus by providing same-day results.

An infectious disease clinical laboratory located in the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Diatherix provides testing capabilities for doctors’ offices, hospitals, reference labs and nursing homes.

In a recent conversation with Yellowhammer News, Diatherix president Jennifer Cart described her company’s role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We essentially provide a laboratory service so that physicians can more accurately diagnosis their patients,” said Cart. “We are squarely seated in this rapid, providing of same day results for the specimen so we are giving very timely and accurate information in infectious diseases.”

Having been in business since 2008, that role is reflected in the company’s name, which Cart explained represents “where diagnostics meet therapeutics.”

While conventional laboratories provide more generalized testing on a broader range of specimens, Diatherix’s more tailored focus allowed it to rise to the occasion on the front-end of the COVID-19 outbreak in March.

“We are very uniquely specialized in infectious disease, and our proprietary technology is a very high-throughput multiplex that makes us able to run a high volume of specimens with multiple results,” outlined Cart.

The team at Diatherix began its assessment of the coronavirus in December 2019, according to Cart. This early evaluation allowed the company to hit the ground running when the need arose for mass testing.

“Because we are focused on infectious disease, we are always monitoring for emerging pathogens, so this was not our first emerging pathogen,” she remarked. “We have seen in the past MERS, which came from UAE, the Middle East. We are always looking and watching, and then we make determinations whether or not we think it is going to be a player in the United States such that we would need to develop the assay.”

That understanding brought about a testing procedure, or assay, in record time.

“In our history this was probably our fastest launch of a new assay because we actually have it as part of a very complex group of other viruses so we could right off the bat determine if it was COVID or flu right out of the gate,” said Cart. “We already had that capability in March. Everybody has been talking about having that now, having it for the fall. We have already been positioned for that and been able to run results since then.”

Since March, there have been 8.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States. Alabama has seen a little over 160,000 confirmed cases in that same period.

The volume of work at Diatherix has matched the country’s case counts throughout the year.

“From March through July, it was on a very rapid, accelerated incline,” Cart noted. “We then hit a bit of a stabilization in August and September. We are back to what I would not say as rapid of an incline, but a steady incline.”

The nation’s peak for new case counts occurred July 24 when 74,710 new cases were registered with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Reported daily cases dipped to 23,301 on September 8. The United States hit a new daily high on October 24 when the CDC registered 83,851 new cases.

Without revealing specific internal data, Cart estimates that Diatherix has averaged around 100,000 tests per month, a figure which puts the company on track to process more than one million coronavirus tests by the end of 2020.

Heavily reliant on overnight shipping, specimens have arrived in Huntsville from providers across the country.

As an example, Cart recalled the work Diatherix did for numerous drive-thru testing sites in states like Michigan, Tennessee and Florida. The process, she said, was no different than a normal physician’s office except they received 300 to 400 specimens per day from places which would normally send them five.

To handle the volume, the layout of the facility had to change. The basement was cleared, and packages were routed down there for opening and specimen transport to the labs.

Even with state-of-the-art equipment and proprietary testing processes, Cart points to a single aspect of the company which has allowed Diatherix to weather an unprecedented strain this year.

“People are our greatest asset,” she emphasized.

Since the beginning of the year, Diatherix has hired 100 new employees, placing the company’s personnel total at 250.

“It is all hands on deck,” said Cart. “First of all, our lab, our R&D team and our client services has been consistently working since developing the test and running the test. There have been no breaks. It’s a pounding intensity that has been relentless and has not stopped.”

The paperwork that accompanies such a high volume of specimens has been daunting. Employees were called to fill multiple roles to handle more than 20,000 documents received daily.

“We had people outside of their normal job, and everyone still had their normal job to do, doing that just so we could get the results out,” explained Cart. “Because we know how important it is to have the same day results at the time when many labs are doing five, six, seven, ten days waiting for the results, which becomes less useful information to the physician once it gets past the date of collection.”

A graduate of the University of Florida, Cart mentioned to one of Diatherix’s employees, who was a native Alabamian, how impressed she was with the way the team was handling the increased workload during the COVID crisis.

“She replied to me, ‘That’s what we call hard stock,’” recollected Cart.

That can-do attitude prevalent among Diatherix’s employees has made quite an impression on the company’s leader.

“It brings tears to my eyes to think about what our employees have given up to be there every day, to do what we need to do not only for the company but for the state and for the country in the pandemic,” Cart remarked. “Their kids are at home getting home-schooled by their spouse or their with grandparents. We have done everything we can to support them but ultimately they are really carrying this company and carrying us forward. It will be something that, in my career I’ve learned a lot as a leader, but the biggest impact to me is how I’ve seen these employees and the people. I can’t even describe it. It is hard stock is the best way to put it.”

The United States has seen a surge in coronavirus infections during October, and several European countries are renewing lockdowns.

A forward-looking approach has helped Diatherix prepare for whatever is next in the fight against COVID-19, according to Cart.

“We have already been making changes,” she outlined. “As part of our normal process, with viruses in particular, viruses can mutate. They call it antigenic shift. We are always blasting the viruses, not just SARS-CoV-2, but influenza A, B, anything that essentially could have viral antigenic shift, and watching for that. We are always monitoring for the need to put in a different sequence or different target for our assay to be even more robust.”

As Cart and her team move forward, they see no signs of letting up, themselves.

“The ramp up has been all-consuming but we have been able to produce same-day results as we receive our specimens,” Cart concluded. “In today’s time, with everybody targeting 48 hours, the fact that we can essentially provide the results the day we receive them is still a feather in the Diatherix cap in comparison to all the other labs.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

ULA’s Tory Bruno on training 21st century workforce — ‘Higher education is the most powerful force we have’

(ULA/Contributed, @ULALaunch/Twitter, YHN)

The nation needs to prioritize technical curriculum in its workforce training to meet the demands of 21st century jobs, and higher education will be at the forefront of the effort.

That was the assessment of United Launch Alliance president and CEO Tory Bruno during a virtual panel discussion last week as part of the AscendxSummit on Space Policy and Education.

The owner of a 1.6 million square foot rocket manufacturing facility in Decatur, the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere, Bruno’s company is heavily dependent on a highly-developed workforce in Alabama.

Joined on the panel by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Bruno outlined that expanding the number of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum is critical to the United States remaining a leader in the aerospace industry.

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“When we talk about space and our industry, we’re really talking about STEM, and the dominant element of STEM is engineering, engineering and applied science,” he explained. “If we’re not careful, we’ll produce people who are very theoretical, but have less ability to handle the applied side of that.”

Gov. Kay Ivey recently created the Alabama STEM Council to study and inform state leaders on how to advance Alabama’s efforts in the STEM strand.

Ivey explained that the Yellowhammer State “has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed.”

The federal government invests more than $3 billion annually in STEM education.

RELATED: University of Alabama STEM students included in nation’s top 20 in 20s

Wilson, who currently serves as president at the University of Texas-El Paso, added her support for the notion that more students need to go on to higher education, and more of those need to be involved in technical learning.

“Currently in America, about 62% of boys who recently graduated from high school, and 69% of girls, go on to some post-high school educational experience, college, technical training, community college,” stated Wilson.”That’s nowhere near enough because 90% of the new jobs that are being created require some kind of post-high school credential. Most of them are technically-oriented. Even jobs that are not technically-oriented, finance, marketing, are having more and more technical components.”

She sees a need to bridge the gap between industry and higher education, particularly in the area of “continuous spiraling education.”

“A bachelor’s degree or a master’s or a Ph.D., and then you quit learning, is not enough for this generation,” Wilson remarked.

Bruno believes that greater collaboration between university faculty and industry can help bridge that gap. He advocated for programs that keep faculty involved in practical applications within industry, as well as bringing more experienced members of his industry into teaching settings.

“We’ve got a very good model going in the applied side of this where we have industry coming in and being involved with universities, with real world projects, and sending our employees back for more education, and even taking students out into internships,” Bruno elaborated. “What I wish I could see more of, and it’s on us to make this happen, is the same thing for faculty. I feel there’s a trend of fewer and fewer faculty who have an industry background before going to academia, and fewer and fewer faculty who, once in academia, continue to have involvement in industry.”

Asked for ideas on how to keep women and minorities involved in STEM, Wilson cited work done by the National Science Foundation.

She said that studies have shown more engaged learning is key, including focus on the “why” not just the “what.” Women disproportionally want to know why the problem matters, according to Wilson, which is why she touts more problem and community-based learning.

“The environment in engineering school needs to be supportive and not about weeding out,” she detailed. “That’s particularly important when you have a small percentage of the class that feels different anyway.”

“Diversity has such great power in problem solution,” observed Bruno, a former chairman of the Diversity Council at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

One of the ways in which greater diversity in technical curriculums can be achieved, according to Bruno, is increased focus by universities on bringing in as many students as possible and teaching them what he termed, “good, solid STEM skills.”

“We should be measuring universities on productivity not on their reject rate, in the first place,” he asserted. “There are so many universities that are rewarded with prestige by being very exclusive. They literally measure themselves by how many students they reject, how many students they wash out. What the country needs is more graduates, not fewer.”

Universities in Alabama have already excelled in the area of STEM training.

Earlier this year, the University of Alabama College of Engineering had two of its students recognized among the nation’s top 20 STEM students. Jane Gillette and Sean Devey were recognized as part of Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties for 2020, which was sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Gillette has participated in internships at ULA and NASA.

Wilson sees no shortage of potential students but rather places the responsibility on universities and private industry to pull them into the STEM strand.

“We need to reach what I call the ‘missing millions,’ the young people in America who have not been inspired or supported to go into STEM disciplines because the 21st century will demand it,” she stated.

Despite the challenges of the current year, and technical innovation which demands an increasingly developed workforce, Bruno expressed forward-looking optimism.

“I’m not the least bit concerned that our country will not overcome the challenges that are in front of us,” he concluded. “We absolutely will. Will have resourceful, we have resilient people, we have the best education system in the world. Higher education is the most powerful force we have in our society to change someone’s economic fortunes. It makes all the difference in the world. It is a life-changer.”

RELATED: Boeing donates $50K to Decatur City Schools for STEM education

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Hometown heroes: Bama, UAB, Troy, Jax State and more

(Pixabay, YHN)

Before anyone has even seen a single snap of Big Ten football, national sports media this week returned to its pandemic panic room and pronounced the conference’s season a failure.

Sports media argued tirelessly during the summer months that it was not cheering for football to get canceled. However, following Nick Saban’s false positive coronavirus test, it did exactly that here, here and here.

At Yellowhammer, we are cheering for college football. More specifically, this week, we are mainly cheering for underdogs.

Let’s get to some picks.

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THE BASICS

Alabama (-22) at Tennessee: The largest margin of victory in this series was a 51-0 win by Alabama in 1906. Alabama’s current win streak over the Vols began a mere three years later (or at least that is what it feels like). Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt allegedly fired an assistant coach mid-game on Saturday. That is a bad start to what is, for some people, a favorite week of the year. Those people will not be disappointed.

The pick: Alabama 34, Tennessee 17

NC State at North Carolina (-14.5): North Carolina went into Tallahassee a double-digit favorite and lost. That may have had more to do with Florida State getting its first quality coaching since Jimbo Fisher’s national championship season. Mack Brown has a good team. Now it is a matter of them playing like it.

The pick: North Carolina 40, NC State 20

Texas State at BYU (-28.5): The Cougars have been a fun story this season amidst their mini-revival. They are physical along the lines of scrimmage, and quarterback Zach Wilson has worked his way up to No. 4 on ESPN’s Heisman Watch List. If this team remains undefeated in late November, we can all hope they handle the playoff talk a bit more graciously than UCF has in recent years.

The pick: BYU 30, Texas State 13

HOMETOWN HEROES

Louisiana (-2.5) at UAB: This is a game between two of the nation’s more underrated coaches, UAB’s Bill Clark and Louisiana’s Billy Napier. Do not be surprised to see both coaching in the SEC sooner rather than later. This will be an emotionally-charged game for Louisiana, as it will pay tribute to former assistant coach D.J. Looney, who passed away suddenly in August. The Ragin’ Cajuns plan to wear his name on the back of their jerseys. This could be as good a game as has been played at Legion Field in a while.

The pick: UAB 24, Louisiana 20

Georgia State at Troy (-2.5): The Trojans bring a two-game win streak into this Sun Belt matchup. Both teams have scored points freely so far this year. Georgia State is ninth in the country in rushing offense and 73rd in scoring defense.  Troy is a respectable 33rd in scoring defense and 31st in total offense. All signs point to a shootout.

The pick: Georgia State 42, Troy 35

Jacksonville State at Florida International (-10): This game was originally scheduled for September 2. Since its postponement, the Gamecocks have gone to Tallahassee where they gave Florida State a scare and won a couple of tight ball games against Mercer and North Alabama. It was good to see this one get back on the calendar because no one ever turns down a trip to Miami.

The pick: Florida International 38, Jacksonville State 30

BUYER BEWARE

Tulsa (-11.5) at South Florida: There was a time when the Thursday and Friday night college games meant something, and visiting favorites were constantly on upset alert. That has not been the case in a while. In late October, Tulsa has still only played two games, a close loss to No. 6 Oklahoma State and a win against Central Florida. South Florida is in rebuild mode under first-year head coach Jeff Scott, whose team has started to show just a glimmer of improvement the last few weeks. Anyone tuning in to watch this game should not expect to see a work of art.

The pick: South Florida 20, Tulsa 16

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 13-2 straight up; 9-6 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Alabama ‘the leading state with the highest success’ in providing internet to low-income students

(Pixabay, YHN)

An Alabama program to provide free internet access for low-income students reached a milestone last week.

The Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students (ABC for Students) program has now provided internet access to more than 100,000 of the state’s students, according to officials at the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

The program became a priority for the state when it was apparent a large number of the state’s students were going to pursue a virtual learning option this school year.

“For Governor Ivey, when we heard all of the school schedules that were going to be going to virtual, it was important to her to create initiatives that would help children that are on free and reduced lunches simply because it would qualify under the CARES Act because it would help them to be able to do their school work at home,” explained Kenneth Boswell, director of ADECA, in a recent conversation with Yellowhammer News.

In total, Ivey has committed up to $100 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to deliver internet access to eligible students.

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Boswell, whose department has been charged with administering ABC for Students, noted that some of the challenges with identifying areas of need had already been tackled by ADECA because of the ongoing broadband expansion effort.

“We were already a little ahead of the curve,” he said.

Based on the tight timeframe needed to get a program in place and administered, ADECA chose to implement a voucher program.

Then working with the Alabama State Department of Education, eligible students were sent a letter with a special code which they could use to obtain internet access through one of 37 different internet service providers.

In cases where families live at an address not serviced by any providers, ADECA will provide an internet hotspot.

More than 102,000 students have now enrolled in ABC for Students, which puts the effort in Alabama in a class of its own.

“We are the leading state with the highest success of implementation,” remarked Boswell.

Maureen Neighbors, chief of the Energy Division at ADECA, believes Alabama’s program is the largest in the nation given the number of students and providers in the mix.

“What we’re doing is more complex than what most other folks who are trying something similar are doing,” she said.

Neighbors cited programs where there is a single provider, or in a limited geographic area, as generally having a 2% success rate.

“We feel like we’re very far ahead of that,” she outlined. “This is one of the most ambitious attempts to address the digital divide based on affordability.”

With ample funding still available, Boswell urged families to give letters they receive a little more attention to make sure it is not an opportunity to get connected.

Boswell said his department has begun working with local superintendents to conduct outreach to students and parents who have yet to utilize their vouchers.

He encouraged families who think they may be eligible to call ADECA.

“Call us,” he said. “We want to help you. We want to make sure your child is getting the appropriate resources for them to learn at home.”

Though the funding expires on December 30, Boswell indicated that ADECA has the infrastructure in place to continue the program should Congress decide to extend it.

“In the short time frame that we have had to deal with, this has been wildly successful,” remarked Boswell. “It can be even more successful when more people participate.”

According to Neighbors, the first priority has always been to provide tools for educating children. However, she also noted that there has been a significant benefit to Alabama’s economy, as well.

“This has been an economic driver,” detailed Neighbors. “We work with 37 providers, and the vast majority of those are Alabama-based providers. We have national providers that are part of the process, and they have been great partners, as well. But the majority of the providers we’re dealing with are Alabama homegrown companies that are being supported through this program.”

And those providers have helped make ABC for Students more cost-efficient, according to Boswell.

“One of the big components of this is our vendors,” he said. “We had actually projected a higher cost. Because we had asked them to help not only the families but also the state of Alabama stretch the dollars, they came in at lower cost than what we had actually projected. So kudos to them. They came to the aid of the people that needed the help at a very reasonable cost.”

Anyone seeking more information on the program can call the ABC for Students dedicated help line at ADECA, which is 888.212.4998.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Auburn has something to prove; Can Stetson Bennett finish off the Tide defense?

(Pixabay, YHN)

Serving as an assistant for Nick Saban has proven to be a lucrative move for a lot of coaches.

Five of his former assistants now hold head coaching positions in the SEC. Their average salary this season is $5.33 million. Add in Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, who makes a little over $1 million this year, and it is easy to see why Butch Jones is content to tote Gatorade on the Tide sideline for a while.

While they have all collected big checks after working in Saban’s building, one thing none have done is beat the man. The collective apprentice versus teacher streak sits at 0-21.

Could this finally be the week?

Here are the picks:

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THE BASICS

No. 15 Auburn (-2.5) at South Carolina: The statement was made this week that “Auburn should not be ranked.” Fair point. Which is why South Carolina is a trendy mild upset pick this week. Gus Malzahn knows his offensive line needs to play better. Will Muschamp and his $4.6 million is on that list of former Saban assistants, so there is a lot of pressure on him in Columbia, too.

The pick: Auburn 33, South Carolina 27

No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama (-4.5): There was a lot of discussion this week about the Tide defense being on the ropes already. However, it might be a bit hasty to draw conclusions from the game against Ole Miss. It was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl; the type of game where the former Saban assistant pulled out every trick in his bag to become the first apprentice to put a win on the board. On the Georgia sideline will stand Stetson Bennett, the former fourth-string quarterback, who has become both a revelation and a sensation early in the 2020 season. Will Bennett be able to weather a game plan from the old defensive wizard the likes of which he has never seen before?

The pick: Alabama 24, Georgia 16

BUYER BEWARE

Ole Miss (-1.5) at Arkansas: Kiffin already has the Rebels clicking on all cylinders in only his first season. Quarterback Matt Corral is a dynamic playmaker who has put up some gaudy offensive stats. Ole Miss is second in the nation in total offense. Ole Miss gave Alabama everything they could handle last weekend and nearly knocked off the mighty conference favorites. It is doubtful the Lane Train is even equipped with breaks.

The pick: Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 27

No. 1 Clemson (-27) at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is facing a big number at home against the perpetually most over-hyped team in college football. Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, who served one season as director of player personnel for Saban at Alabama, has laid a solid foundation with playmaker Jeff Sims at quarterback.

The pick: Clemson 36, Georgia Tech 17

BONUS

Boston College at No. 23 Virginia Tech (-13): Boston College is another trendy upset pick. Lost in the fact that Virginia Tech gave up 56 points to a talented North Carolina team last week is the 45 points the Hokies put up on the road.

The pick: Virginia Tech 40, Boston College 20

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 9-1 straight up; 6-4 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Alabama’s top investment banking firm Frazer Lanier adds to its ranks

(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)

Alabama’s largest and most active investment banking firm has added two new bankers to its team.

The Frazer Lanier Company, Incorporated announced that David Langham and Lance Hyche have joined the firm.

“David and Lance have established themselves as very effective and successful investment bankers,” noted John Mazyck, a partner at Frazer Lanier, in a release from the firm. “They bring a host of meaningful, complementary relationships to our firm.”

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Langham brings 12 years of public finance experience. He previously served as lead banker for a Mobile firm where he focused on the areas of general obligation, water and sewer revenue, gas revenue, boards of education, college and university, and public-private partnerships.

Hyche has been in the investment banking industry since 2012. Prior to that, he spent 14 years working in public education advocacy and media relations, and he has developed extensive knowledge in the areas of state and local government affairs. His area of focus will include general obligation, water and sewer revenue, and public education financings.

“David’s home base of Mobile gives us a physical presence in South Alabama, and he will be the only investment banker in Alabama to actually call Mobile home,” partner Jason Grubbs added. “Lance will join the Birmingham office and work across the State.”

RELATED: Alabama’s top investment banking firm a partner in growing the state — ‘We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities’

Frazer Lanier is a Montgomery-based investment banking firm that owns the largest market share of investment banking business in the state, according to Thomson Reuters. In 2020, it has already closed 64 in-state deals equating to a 48% market share.

With Grubbs managing the company’s Birmingham office, the firm also covers North Alabama out of a Florence office and maintains a presence in West Alabama, Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Florida.

Founded as a public finance company in 1976 by Rod Frazer and Clifford Lanier, corporate finance now makes up a significant portion of its business, according to Mazyck.

The Frazer Lanier Company has been involved in some major economic development projects across Alabama. For example, Hunt Refining Company, the largest private employer in Tuscaloosa County, has spent well over $1 billion building out its refinery with financing obtained through The Frazer Lanier Company. The companies closed a $612 million deal just last year.

The firm has helped finance large capital projects in manufacturing, research and other sectors across Alabama counting a “who’s who” list of Alabama employers as clients.

Yet, Mazyck outlined to Yellowhammer News earlier this year that public financing, particularly in the state’s smaller communities, will remain at the core of the firm’s business.

“Those communities really need us,” concluded Mazyck. “We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities. We really pride ourselves on our working with the smaller places, the infrequent issuers, because we really know we are helping them. And they make a decision based on character.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

NASA, Boeing set to conclude SLS testing – ‘The beginning of the next era of human spaceflight’

(NASA/Twitter)

NASA and Boeing are in the final days of testing on the core stage of Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket which will carry humans back to the Moon and beyond.

The entire SLS program is being managed from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

John Honeycutt, SLS program manager for NASA, confirmed the project’s progress during a conference call on Tuesday.

“Despite having to deal with the pandemic, SLS has made significant progress in 2020 on all the rockets that we need for the first three Artemis missions to send astronauts to the Moon,” detailed Honeycutt.

NASA’s Artemis program has three missions planned for lunar exploration, the first of which is set to launch late next year.

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“Artemis I is set to launch in a little over a year in November 2021,” Honeycutt stated. “All of the parts for the SLS rocket for Artemis I, except for the core stage, are at Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch of Artemis I.”

SLS’s core stage is currently in the last phase of testing at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

“The big item within the program that we are making good progress toward is of course the 212-foot tall core stage,” said Honeycutt. “It’s the brand-new development in the program, and it is critical for Artemis I. It is ready for the last two series of an eight-test series planned for the Green Run, along with the Artemis I flight software.”

The Green Run is the name given to the complex set of tests performed over a period of months which confirm the functioning of the vehicle’s systems. The flight software is being tested in a laboratory at Marshall Space Flight Center.

One of the remaining tests in the Green Run will be performed later this month. Called the wet rehearsal, it will involve loading 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen into the fuel tanks to verify their integrity.

The final test is a hot fire of the engines for more than eight minutes, the amount of time they will fire during the first mission.

John Shannon, vice president and SLS program manager at Boeing, explained that the extensive testing is necessary based on the complex design of the core stage.

“The SLS is really the brains of the first propulsion part of the vehicle,” Shannon outlined. “So all of the avionics, the flight computers, the systems to control the vehicle are inside that core stage itself.”

Testing has gone as planned, according to Shannon.

“The design has held together extremely well,” he said. “We have not really had any surprises in the testing we did at Michoud to translating it in the vertical and putting it through all of its paces at Stennis. Our anticipation right now is that, barring any unforeseen issues, that we would load the vehicle on the barge. Right now, our schedule is that we would ship it to Kennedy on January 14.”

For the Artemis I mission, SLS will send the Orion spacecraft 280,000 miles from Earth, which is farther than any other spacecraft designed for human occupancy has ever traveled.

Generating the immense power necessary for such a trip are Aerojet Rocketdyne engines, four RS-25 engines for the core stage and the RL-10 engines used for the upper stage.

“This will be the first time that we are firing four of these [RS-25] engines together,” outlined Jim Maser, senior vice president for Space Business at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

When completed, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built, generating 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch. Achieving 15% greater thrust at launch than the historic Saturn V, SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in a single launch.

Maser believes the heritage of the engines used for SLS, having powered more than two dozen previous space flights, provides the team with a confidence which allows them to focus more clearly on some of the more unique aspects of SLS.

SLS will have three times the capability of any other existing space vehicle, according to Maser, with the Green Run testing phase serving as a monumental step for America’s space program.

“This Green Run is really the beginning of the next era of human spaceflight going back beyond low Earth orbit to sustainable Moon and Mars,” Maser advised.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

, and 3 months ago

College football power rankings: Bama holds steady; Gators fall out

(Pixabay, YHN)

The slow-motion reveal of a college football season is well underway. It has been more than six weeks since some teams have taken the field, and we have learned a little more about those teams with the passing of each Saturday.

It has become obvious which players took their offseason development seriously (see: Mac Jones) and which teams appear to have bypassed offseason workouts (see: LSU).

This week sees the most variance among the rankings of our experts as they vote on the cumulative Yellowhammer Power Poll.

Here is where things stand:

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Zack Shaw

1. Clemson
2. Georgia
3. Alabama

4. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
6. Penn State
7. Texas A&M
8. BYU

The lowdown: Defense appears to be in short supply early in the 2020 season. Clemson and Georgia rise to the top of the rankings because of their ability to slow down opponents in addition to putting up points themselves.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Notre Dame
5. Ohio State
6. North Carolina
7. Penn State
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: Hurricane Delta made yesterday’s games a little more interesting with time changes and soaked fields. Clemson looked incredibly strong in their win over a Top 25 Miami. The week’s most exciting storyline was Saban vs. Kiffin, which was an unusually close game until the fourth quarter when Alabama pulled away. Once again, quarterback Mac Jones continues an outside quest for a Heisman with over 400 yards passing.

Tim Howe

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. North Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Notre Dame
8. Auburn

The lowdown: Saturday was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl. The Crimson Tide survived and can now focus fully on Georgia. Be careful drawing any conclusions from that game. North Carolina ran for 399 yards on the ground. That is a winning formula in any conference.

Yellowhammer’s power rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes are noted above.

3 months ago

Around the SEC: Mac Jones on fire; 3 SEC teams in the playoff?

(@AlabamaFTBL/Twitter, Alabama Football/Facebook, YHN)

It is hard to believe that the SEC’s grip on college football could have gotten any tighter than it has been the past 15 years. But that is exactly what has happened with two power conferences yet to even begin their seasons and lackluster football being played everywhere else.

As Week 3 in the SEC kicks off, there is no shortage of big games and storylines to watch.

Mac Jones putting up historic numbers

ESPN’s Brad Edwards said this week that Jones’ early season numbers compare favorably to those of Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, with the Bama offense with Jones under center virtually unchanged from previous years.

Jones is currently the top-ranked quarterback in all of college football in the categories of passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt.

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Looking at only downfield throws since the start of the 2019 season, Jones has had the most yards after catch, with 5.6 yards per pass attempt. For a comparison, Tua is second with 5.5 yards per pass attempt.

Jones has completed 58% of his passes on attempts of 25 yards or more. That is first in college football since the beginning of 2019. He is second to only Burrow in touchdowns downfield, with six.

Edwards called the Tide’s passing game “uncontainable.”

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, game analyst Todd McShay offered his own praise of Jones on “SEC Now.”

“Watching him through a couple games, he’s getting the ball out quickly, he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s not going to run but he can move inside the pocket and I love his poise,” said McShay. “I think that is what has gotten him to this point, and I think that is why Alabama has a legitimate chance to win a national championship with this guy at quarterback.”

Tennessee vs. Georgia

Georgia is a 12.5-point favorite heading into today’s game against Tennessee. The Bulldogs carry an eight-game win streak, which is tied with Notre Dame for the longest current win streak in FBS.

Kirby Smart’s squad has won each of its last three meetings against the Vols by an average margin of 32 points per game.

Although, one college football analyst is predicting a much tighter game.

The SEC Network’s Jordan Rodgers said, “Neither Georgia nor Tennessee will score more than 20 points.”

Keys to stopping Mississippi State’s offense

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik outlined his keys to stopping Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense during an appearance on “SEC Now” on Friday.

Chizik faced off against Leach during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. At the time, Chizik served as Texas’ defensive coordinator while Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech.

“The genius in [Leach’s offense] is that it is so simple, that he lets defensive coordinators think they have to do all these different things and they screw it up,” remarked Chizik.

He credited Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom for his winning game plan last week, saying Odom committed to doing very few things and letting his defense play.

“It’s not about guru-ing everything up,” Chizik concluded. “It’s about letting your players do what they do best. That’s how you defend this offense.”

Three SEC teams in the playoff?

If there was ever a year for the SEC to occupy 75% of the spots in the college football playoff, this would be the year.

The Big 12 and the Pac-12 have essentially eliminated themselves from contention, with the Big 12 having done so on the field and the Pac-12 having done so off the field.

In the ACC, this year’s Clemson team looks to be the least talented version of itself in several years, while Miami and Notre Dame look good, not great. It is easy to imagine each of those teams having a minimum of one loss by season’s end.

Ohio State has yet to take the field but returns talent more on par with that of its SEC counterparts. And then there is the fact that the Big Ten has revamped the conference schedule in a way which would appear to be favorable to a Buckeyes undefeated season.

So, Ohio State occupying one of the playoff spots is reasonable to assume.

That leaves the SEC.

According to ESPN analytics, the SEC has three teams with a 35% or better chance to go at least 9-1 through the regular season: Alabama (58%), Georgia (44%) and Florida (35%).

The same analytics are showing that Georgia’s chance of reaching the playoff has increased from 25% to 45% over the past two weeks.

The key will be for each of those teams to stay clean except for when they play each other. Today, Florida needs to take care of business against a desperate Texas A&M team and Georgia needs to hold off a resurgent Tennessee team.

Undoubtedly a long-shot scenario, but weirder things have happened in 2020.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 months ago

College football picks: Auburn rebounds; A top-5 team goes down

(Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics, Alabama Athletics/Contributed, YHN)

It is easy to make assumptions about what we think is going to happen based on what we have seen before. This action has a name — it is called availability. The idea is that something is easily available for us to envision based on that prior experience – even if circumstances are different.

People fall into the availability trap all the time in politics and business.

Another place availability finds victims is in college football.

Many had penciled Oklahoma into the playoff before the season started. Sight unseen, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was assumed to be going to New York City for the Heisman ceremony. Maybe that still happens. But if it does, it will be because of what he does on the field rather than on what the school’s other quarterbacks have done in the past.

The same trap could be set for another top team this week.

Let’s get to the picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-24) at Ole Miss: Mac Jones is a top three quarterback in the country so far this season. The Tide have college football’s best wide receiving unit — again. Ole Miss has been frisky on offense, but terrible on defense. How many points does Nick Saban want to score?

The pick: Alabama 42, Ole Miss 20

Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn (-13.5): Auburn comes off its loss to Georgia, which applied relentless defensive pressure on quarterback Bo Nix as well as some new math for its 20% spectator capacity at Sanford Stadium. If the Auburn offensive line can give Nix just a little bit of time, the plays will be there downfield against Arkansas.

The pick: Auburn 28, Arkansas 14

BUYER BEWARE

No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson (-14): Clemson’s defense gave up 101 yards rushing last week to Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong. Miami’s significantly more dynamic quarterback, D’Eriq King, gets his shot on Saturday. This is Dabo Swinney’s least talented roster in years.

The pick: Miami 36, Clemson 30

No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina (-5): You blink and all of a sudden North Carolina is the eighth-ranked team in the country. And this was after the Heels barely escaped last week against a much less-talented Boston College team. It has been that kind of year. Mack Brown probably only has another season or two left in his second tenure in Chapel Hill.

The pick: North Carolina 33, Virginia Tech 24

BONUS

UNC Charlotte (-3) at North Texas: UNC Charlotte had a chunk of its season shut down because of a COVID outbreak. Head coach Will Healy’s star is rising among the coaching ranks.

The pick: Charlotte 37, North Texas 30

Last week: 5-0 straight up; 3-2 ATS

RELATED: Around the SEC — Has Saban kept Kiffin’s number in his phone? Plus, playing the $75 million game

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia