2 years ago

Huntsville’s Dynetics to play pivotal role in landing first woman on Moon, eventually first crewed mission to Mars

HUNTSVILLE — An Alabama company will play a major role in the first woman landing on the Moon, as well as the first ever crewed mission to Mars in the near future.

Huntsville-based Dynetics on Tuesday held a press conference to announce that it has been selected to join the Maxar-led team in building and demonstrating the power and propulsion element for the Gateway, which is an essential component of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program and future expeditions to Mars.

The two companies at the press conference signed an agreement establishing a framework for them to work together on the historic mission, with substantive work being executed by Dynetics’ facilities in north Alabama.

As recently announced, Colorado-based Maxar was selected by NASA as the primary contractor to build and perform a spaceflight demonstration of the power and propulsion element spacecraft, which is the first element for the lunar Gateway. Due to Dynetics’ world-class capabilities and unparalleled experience in the field, a Maxar representative said there was no better choice to help complete the mission.

“We’re thrilled to add Dynetics to our team and bring power and propulsion element work to Huntsville. Dynetics has decades of expertise in human space exploration, and will play a critical role in executing the Artemis mission, landing the first woman on the surface of the Moon, and establishing the sustainable space infrastructure that is necessary to explore Mars,” Mike Gold, Maxar’s vice president of civil space, said, adding that Dynetics has an “amazing staff.”

Gateway, to be a maneuverable space station orbiting the Moon eventually, will play a critical role in ensuring that NASA astronauts can land on the lunar surface by 2024 while serving as a pivotal platform to support future missions to Mars and beyond.

The power and propulsion element is targeted for launch by the end of 2022 and will provide power, maneuvering, attitude control, communications systems and initial docking capabilities for the Gateway. From there, additional modules can be added to the power and propulsion element.

Dynetics is expected to support Maxar in areas such as propulsion systems; mechanical and propulsion testing; system integration and assembly; and mission operations.

“This is an exciting time for lunar exploration,” Kim Doering, Dynetics’ vice president for space systems, emphasized.

“We look for space partners that share our similar core values and are eager to see America return to the Moon,” she continued. “Maxar fills that role and Dynetics is glad to be on the team. Maxar’s power and propulsion element will be a vital element of the Lunar Gateway and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the Moon. We are looking forward to this partnership and to participating in the development of the lunar architecture here in Huntsville on our campus and in Decatur, Alabama, at our Aerospace Structures Complex.”

Gold and Dynetics CEO David King signed the agreement for their respective companies on Tuesday.

They were joined by several representatives from NASA, as well as staff members from the offices of several government officials key to the Rocket City, including Harrison Diamond speaking on behalf of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“[I]t’s a wonderful thing that we can say you can’t get to the Moon without going through Huntsville first,” Diamond said. “Apparently it’s going to be Mars as well.”

He extolled Dynetics, saying the company “represents the best of Huntsville: truly innovative folks who are working on complex problems.”

In a video shown at the press conference, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed private sector partners like Maxar and Dynetics as “advancing the cause of humanity” through their work.

The video also provided a good primer on exactly what Gateway is, as well as the plans for the Artemis lunar mission and, eventually, expeditions to Mars.

Watch:

Dr. Michele Gates, director of NASA’s power and propulsion element, traveled from NASA headquarters to attend the press conference. She stressed how critical Dynetics’ involvement will be to Artemis and “future missions to Mars.”

Following Gates, Gold wrapped up his remarks by lauding the Yellowhammer State’s past, present and future contributions to the space industry.

“If not for the people of Alabama, there would have been no Moon mission,” he emphasized. “Which is why it’s so appropriate the vehicle which will take us to the Moon, the mighty SLS (Space Launch System), is being built here in Alabama. And now, the first piece of the Gateway, the power and propulsion element, will also be supported here as well.”

“Of course, none of this happens by accident. If not for the unflagging efforts of your congressional delegation, who fight continuously for this community and for human space exploration, we would not be here,” Gold advised. “So, on behalf of all of us who share the dreams of man visiting the stars, thank you so much to Senator Shelby — who is our longtime champion in Washington — and Senator Jones, who recently joined the fight, is a great member of the team; Congressman Aderholt, for all his  great work on CJS (House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations subcommittee)… and for Congressman Brooks, who has always shown strength, leadership and vision for human space flight.”

Gold concluded, “I’m proud that the road to the Moon continues to go through Huntsville.”

This came as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is to be celebrated next week.

Mike Graves, Dynetics’ department manager for space systems and product development, spoke after Gold, underlining that the company is very proud to join the Maxar-led team in this endeavor.

He explained that Dynetics’ space division has become especially “strong and agile” over the last decade or so, with the company building on its longtime work in the defense sector to really grow its space systems work. Graves specifically noted the recent addition of their Aerospace Structures Complex in Decatur as being key to this accelerating growth.

Dynetics has also been separately chosen as the prime contractor on the descent element of the Artemis Human Landing System program. This announcement was made in May.

While Dynetics further being chosen for the Gateway mission is a certain affirmation of their already-world-class space status, Graves stressed, “Our capabilities continue to grow.”

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

40 mins ago

DeVonta Smith accepts Senior Bowl invitation

To the pleasant surprise of many, University of Alabama star wide receiver DeVonta Smith has accepted an invitation to participate in the 2021 Senior Bowl, to be held January 30 in Mobile, Alabama.

This year’s Senior Bowl and the week of practices, workouts and interviews before the game will look a little different due to COVID-19 protocols, however the annual showcase will still be a premier scouting opportunity for NFL prospects and teams.

The game itself is already sold out (with limited capacity) for its first-ever game to be played in the state-of-the-art Hancock Whitney Stadium located on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

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Now, the event has added the Heisman Trophy winner to the list of elite prospects who have accepted the Senior Bowl’s prestigious invitation to play in the game.

Smith, a two-time national champion for the Crimson Tide, will be added to the roster of either the American team or National team.

The staffs of the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins will coach the respective teams. Miami owns both the third pick and 18th pick in this spring’s draft, and the Panthers have pick No. 8.

One incentive for Smith to participate in the Senior Bowl is the difference in contract values between top picks; looking at last year’s numbers, there was a $10 million difference in picks No. 3 and No. 7, for example.

The Senior Bowl’s website also says that Alabama offensive linemen Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown and long snapper Thomas Fletcher have accepted invitations.

Looking around the Yellowhammer State, Auburn’s KJ Britt, South Alabama’s Riley Cole, and UAB’s Jordan Smith and Austin Watkins, Jr. have also reportedly accepted Senior Bowl invitations.

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

5 hours ago

State Sen. Allen opposes Alabama Memorial Preservation Act repeal — Says it is ‘important’ to protect history

Last month, State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) said he anticipated efforts to change the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which he had sponsored in 2017.

The law has been in the news as of late given the rise of the so-called Black Lives Matter protest movement, responding to the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police. The cities of Birmingham and Mobile moved to take down Confederate memorials, in violation of the law.

During an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Allen echoed his expectations but said he was opposed to any efforts to repeal the law outright.

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“Just like I said in the past, it is so important, and it is something that we need to be careful with and to protect it,” Allen explained. “It is what it is, and there are some things that took place in history that are shameful, and ugly, and disgraceful — but it is what it is and tells a story about who we are and where we come from. In fact, so many events have taken place here in Alabama and across this great country that represents some major, major policy changes. Some of those events took place in this great state. Certainly, I just think for our generation and generations to follow each of us and for four or five generations down the line, for you to be able to tell the complete story on what exactly took place and how we got to where we are — to be able to tell that story I think is very important.”

“If you start removing things and start saying that things shouldn’t exist — I think we need to be of open mind and about how important it is to project history,” he added. “It is a real issue to some. Certainly, I understand that. But it is history.”

APTV host Don Dailey asked Allen if he was open to “tweaks” but opposed a full repeal, which Allen warned a repeal would have consequences.

“I think we’ll be doing a great disjustice to history to go that far with it and to put it in such a way where currently if there is a mechanism in place, and it is a very good process in which individuals must go through, and it is one of those kinds of steps that we put in place to guarantee how we’re going to observe history and protect history as well,” he said.

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

5 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Aderholt: Donald Trump, Mo Brooks remarks didn’t rise to the level of inciting violence — U.S. Capitol riot was ‘premeditated’

President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are facing threats of repercussions for speaking at a rally in the lead-up to the riots on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

Trump has since been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, and Brooks is facing threats of a censure resolution by the same body.

However, during an interview with Alabama Public Television, Brooks’ colleague U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), a “no” vote on impeachment, said while they may have been ill-advised, neither of their remarks rose to the level of inciting violence.

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“I don’t think it was an impeachable offense,” he said of Trump. “If you look at what he said, and I looked at them, they were not I don’t think would nearly rise to that level. Obviously, he, like so many Americans, were concerned about the outcome of the election that occurred back in November — not just the outcome but the way it was handled, and the way the laws were not really in compliance with — and a lot of this really dealt with COVID-19 and the way the states were doing things. We could talk about that for an hour but let me just say that I don’t think that his actions were something that would rise to impeachment. If you look at the actions of those that were rioting in the Capitol, they were there and had a plan well before Donald Trump spoke to the people there for the Electoral College vote. They wouldn’t have had time for them to leave there, get the necessary equipment that some of them had — like the ties we’ve seen in the photos, several other objects that they had. That was something that had to be premeditated.”

He added the “vast majority” of the people at the protest event in Washington, D.C. that day were not a part of the rioting at the U.S. Capitol.

“I’ve looked at the words the president used that day and he in no way from the words that I have seen in the transcripts, that he in any way tried to incite any riots. I think those that would say so are just looking for some reason to try to fail the president.”

“Capitol Journal” anchor Don Dailey then asked Aderholt about Brooks, who Aderholt described as being “very passionate” but not responsible for the U.S. Capitol violence.

“If you know Congressman Brooks, he’s very passionate,” Aderholt added. “But again, I don’t think that what he said caused the rioters to go in. Again, they had to have had a plan well before Congressman Brooks spoke. I think looking back, his words could have been chosen differently. I think he could have made his point without using some of the words he did. But I don’t think it rose to the level of inciting the violence that did occur. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I know that he’s been very committed in what his comments were, I think perhaps he would have chosen those words differently had he known the outcome. But obviously, if you know Congressman Brooks, he’s very passionate on whatever issue he works on, and I think that was part of the day there that he was concerned like many of us were — that the electoral votes that were going to be counted — there were a lot of questions. We can’t move forward in this country if we have a lot of people questioning going to the ballot and making sure their vote is counted. If we start down that path, then I think it’s the end of our democracy as we know it because people have got to have the confidence when their vote is cast, their vote is not going to be put in with votes that are not credible and that are questionable.”

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

19 hours ago

NASA successfully ignites engines on Huntsville-managed SLS core stage, collects valuable data

NASA on Saturday conducted a hot fire of the core stage for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that is scheduled to launch the Artemis I mission to the moon later this year.

The hot fire was the final test of the eight-part, 12-month Green Run series, conducted at Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center.

SLS is the world’s most powerful ever rocket that will power America’s next-generation moon missions and subsequent crewed missions to Mars. Alabama’s aerospace industry has led the effort to build the SLS, which stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

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

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The hot fire test plan called for the rocket’s four RS-25 engines to fire for a little more than eight minutes – the same amount of time it will take to send the rocket to space following launch.

The team successfully completed the countdown and ignited the engines, however the engines shut down a little more than one minute into the hot fire. Teams are assessing the data to determine what caused the early shutdown and will determine a path forward, per a release from NASA.

During the test, the core stage generated 1.6 million pounds of thrust while anchored in the historic B-2 Test Stand. The hot fire included loading 733,000 pounds of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen – mirroring the launch countdown procedure.

“Saturday’s test was an important step forward to ensure that the core stage of the SLS rocket is ready for the Artemis I mission, and to carry crew on future missions,” stated NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who attended the test. “Although the engines did not fire for the full duration, the team successfully worked through the countdown, ignited the engines, and gained valuable data to inform our path forward.”

Support teams across the Stennis test complex reportedly provided high-pressure gases to the test stand, delivered all operational electrical power, supplied more than 330,000 gallons of water per minute to protect the test stand flame deflector and ensure the structural integrity of the core stage, and captured data needed to evaluate the core stage performance.

“Seeing all four engines ignite for the first time during the core stage hot fire test was a big milestone for the Space Launch System team” said John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at Marshall. “We will analyze the data, and what we learned from today’s test will help us plan the right path forward for verifying this new core stage is ready for flight on the Artemis I mission.”

Overall, the hot fire represented a milestone for American space exploration.

“Stennis has not witnessed this level of power since the testing of Saturn V stages in the 1960s,” commented Stennis Center Director Rick Gilbrech. “Stennis is the premier rocket propulsion facility that tested the Saturn V first and second stages that carried humans to the Moon during the Apollo Program, and now, this hot fire is exactly why we test like we fly and fly like we test. We will learn from today’s early shutdown, identify any corrections if needed, and move forward.”

You can watch the hot fire here.

Under the Artemis program, NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024 through Artemis III.

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

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

19 hours ago

USDA, Alabama sign historic agreement to improve forests on public, private lands

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary James Hubbard and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a shared stewardship agreement Jan. 12 to ensure the long-term sustainability of public and private lands in the state.

The agreement signed in an online ceremony is among USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Shared Stewardship agreements establish a framework for federal and state agencies to collaborate better, focus on accomplishing mutual goals, further common interests and effectively respond to the increasing ecological challenges and natural resource concerns.

“Shared stewardship provides an incredible opportunity to work with the state of Alabama to set stewardship priorities together,” Hubbard said. “We will combine our mutual skills and assets to achieve cross-boundary outcomes desired by all.”

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This agreement centers on USDA’s commitment to work with states and other partners to use the best available science to identify high-priority forests that need treatment.

“From our rolling mountains to our sparkling coast, the world can understand why they call it ‘Alabama the Beautiful,’” Ivey said. “I am pleased that we can build on the conservation efforts already happening through these strong federal and state partnerships. I look forward to our state continually working for the good of the people as well as our natural resources and to preserve our beautiful state for generations to come.”

Alabama becomes the seventh state in the South and 23rd in the nation to sign such an agreement to strengthen partnerships to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that support communities and improve forest conditions.

“We look forward to continuing to work together with our partner agencies under this shared stewardship agreement,” said ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “This agreement memorializes a lot of the good work we have already been doing together to manage the resources and enhance our beautiful state, and it adds new areas where we can grow our partnerships.”

The agreement can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/shared-stewardship.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)