1 year 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

11 mins ago

Bryant Museum to reopen in time for football season

Just in time for the University of Alabama football season, the Paul W. Bryant Museum is reopening to visitors.

The museum, which closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus, is now Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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“The Bryant Museum staff is excited to reopen, and we invite all Alabama fans to join us as we get ready for another season of Crimson Tide football,” said Ken Gaddy, director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum. “With safety being our first concern, we are limiting the number of days we will be open and using a timed ticket system to limit the number of visitors in the exhibit hall.”

A limited number of tickets will be sold every 30 minutes to ensure capacity in the exhibit hall remains at a safe amount. Visitors must secure their tickets online before arriving at the museum. Visitors will also be required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing while inside the museum.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Alabama surge needed in 2020 Census participation

It’s the final week of the 2020 Census, and Alabama is counting on every household to submit its survey by Sept. 30. This quick, easy questionnaire collects information that determines Alabama’s federal representation in the U.S. Congress and funding levels for the next decade.

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Help shape Alabama’s bottom line by completing the 2020 Census in one of three ways:

  1. Online at my2020census.gov.
  2. By phone at 1-844-330-2020.
  3. By traditional paper form you received in the mail.

Any information given in the 2020 Census is strictly protected by federal law.

A reduction in Alabama’s census could have adverse impacts to federally funded public service programs that affect every single resident.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, lawmakers, business owners and other entities will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, clinics, roads and more services for families, older adults and children. The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

For information on the 2020 Census, get the facts here.

View the 2020 Census questions and learn why they are asked.

Visit Privacy and Security to read about how the U.S. Census Bureau protects your household information.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Racers coming to Alabama for world’s longest annual paddle race

Paddlers from across the United States will be racing each other down 650 miles of Alabama’s scenic rivers later this month in the Great Alabama 650, the world’s longest annual paddle race.

The second annual Great Alabama 650 begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. Racers will have 10 days to reach Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay via the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest river trail in a single state. Laura Gaddy, communications director of the trail, said this year’s race will be different.

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“In 2019, racers with a wide range of skill level and paddling experience competed in the Great Alabama 650, but just three boats made it to the finish line,” Gaddy said. “Even advanced paddlers had to drop out of the race before finishing, underscoring that this race is best suited for paddlers with a proven record. Therefore, this year we limited registration to paddlers who have competed in previous races. As a result, this year’s class of entrants is even more competitive than the inaugural class.”

Paddlers compete in nation’s longest state river trail from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The field features 16 racers, including 2019 overall winner Bobby Johnson, as well as female solo winner Sallie O’Donnell and Alabama native Ryan Gillikin. Johnson covered more than 85 miles per day to finish the race in seven days, 8 hours, 1 minute and 55 seconds.

“Several of our racers have not only completed some of the toughest paddle races in the world, they have won them,” Gaddy said. “Some are or have been professional paddlers. Others have represented the United States in paddling competitions abroad.”

Alabama’s diverse habitats are on full display during the race as competitors experience rushing whitewater, ambling river delta and everything in between. The course includes portages around several Alabama Power dams.

“The Great Alabama 650 elevates our state to the international stage and points to the 600-plus-mile Alabama Scenic River Trail as one of the premiere paddle destinations in the United States,” Gaddy said. “Even the most competitive athletes can be encumbered by the unpredictable challenges presented by the natural world. This is a race to watch.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced race organizers to restrict portages to race staff, crews and racers. Gaddy said there are still plenty of ways for fans to cheer on the racers.

“There are several ways to track the progress of the competitors without leaving your home,” Gaddy said. “Race updates are reported on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and viewers can visit AL650.com to see our live map, which is updated at least every 2 minutes.”

Viewers can also track the race on social media using the race hashtag #AL650, which may link viewers to behind-the-scene photos posted by racers and their crew members.

“Last year several people with a waterfront property also stood out on their piers to cheer the racers,” Gaddy said. “Some even made signs. When the racers made it to the finish line, they said that the support they received from these spectators helped them to keep going when the race got tough.”

The race, which is sponsored this year by Cahaba BrewingMustang SurvivalMammoth Clothing and Alabama Power, begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. The prize purse will be awarded across three categories: Male Solo, Female Solo and Team. To follow the progress of the competition or to learn more, visit al650.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Nick Saban: Time for Crimson Tide to flip switch from practice to game mode

Alabama coach Nick Saban said his Crimson Tide football team is showing the right effort and intensity in practice, but it’s time to flip the switch and start finishing plays like they would in a game.

“We haven’t played a game in a long time,” Saban said. “We’ve got to get out of practice mode and make sure we’re practicing to develop the habits that are gonna become a part of our DNA as competitors in terms of how we play in a game.”

Alabama opens the season on the road against Missouri at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Nick Saban: Crimson Tide focuses on finishing as season kickoff approaches from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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7 hours ago

College football picks — SEC week 1 and more

The Season of Sankey officially gets underway today. The SEC takes the field for the first time this fall as a result of conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s well-planned approach to playing football amid COVID-19 conditions.

During the last two weeks, a parade of conferences have backtracked on plans to cancel their seasons and put in place schedules set to kick off beginning next month. If only they had followed one simple rule: be more like Sankey.

No doubt the season will be unusual. Expect the unexpected. And, as always, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-29) at Missouri: The Crimson Tide have the fewest non-COVID questions of any team in the country. They also have the most talented roster. Missouri will have a tough time scoring while Nick Saban gets to pick his team’s score.

The pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 9

No. 4 Georgia (-28) at Arkansas: Not a lot of intrigue here, either. The D’Wan Mathis era begins. Georgia wins. Maybe the only real question is: how will Kirby Smart handle dipping and wearing a mask at the same time?

The pick: Georgia 34, Arkansas 7

No. 5 Florida (-14) at Ole Miss: Everyone loves Lane. We get it. But there is a difference in these rosters. Through rain, sleet or snow — or direct deposit — Kiffin will recruit better talent to Oxford in the coming years. Right now, Florida is a markedly better team top-to-bottom.

The pick: Florida 52, Ole Miss 20

No. 8 Auburn (-6.5) at Kentucky: Everyone and their momma is taking Kentucky and the points in this game, not to mention the number of people picking the outright upset. Is it bowl game fatigue? Is it Auburn’s losses on the defensive line? We don’t know. What we do know is that Chad Morris may be the best offensive coordinator in the country if Gus Malzahn lets him cook.

The pick: Auburn 35, Kentucky 24

BUYER BEWARE

No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina: This is a “the barely proven head coach got a raise the week before playing the first game” pick. Plus, South Carolina finally has some actual structure on offense with the addition of Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and a serviceable starter at quarterback in Collin Hill.

The pick: South Carolina 20, Tennessee 16

West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-6.5): This pick breaks two important rules: 1) don’t make a pick because of a coach, and 2) be very wary of the heavily public side. Neal Brown is a rising star. Mike Gundy is something other than that. Neither team has played a game that matters yet, but they looked very different in their respective first weeks. Let’s join the crowd.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21

BONUS

Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU (-16.5): How can we not make a pick in the first-ever SEC game coached by two non-English speakers? All offseason we have heard people ponder about whether Mike Leach’s system will work in the SEC. Any system will work if you have good enough players. The Bulldogs currently do not. On the other hand, one can only imagine the carnage in Baton Rouge post-national championship. At least Coach O gave us this gem.

The pick: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia