NASA Extends Boeing’s Contract to Build More Moon Rockets

 

NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

The agency intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade. The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks.

Illustration shows NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.

The Space Launch System is the backbone of NASA’s deep space human exploration and is the only rocket capable of sending crew, the Orion capsule and heavy cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

“It is urgent that we meet the president’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars.”

NASA works with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions. Boeing is completing the first SLS core stage with the second well underway. The order leverages labor, materials, and supply chain efficiencies for production savings.

The SLS is managed at the Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans and will launch from Cape Canaveral.

NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages.

“We greatly appreciate the confidence NASA has placed in Boeing to deliver this deep space rocket and their endorsement of our team’s approach to meeting this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division. “Together with a nationwide network of engaged and innovative suppliers we will deliver the first core stage to NASA this year for Artemis I.

“This team is already implementing lessons learned and innovative practices from the first build to produce a second core stage more efficiently than the first.  We are is committed to continuous improvement as they execute on this new contract.”

The contract allows Boeing to order materials that will be used to produce additional SLS rockets through the next decade: 10 SLS core stages and eight Exploration Upper Stages to support Artemis III through Artemis XII. The full contract is expected to support up to 10 core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).

“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at Marshall. “SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket.

For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS.

The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.

“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit.”

 

All Major Sections of SLS Rocket Assembled

The last of five major sections for the Boeing-built Space Launch System rocket are now connected.

Engineers at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure.

Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the liquid hydrogen propellant tank last week.

The engine section is located at the bottom of the core stage and is one of the most complicated pieces of hardware for the SLS rocket.

The engine section will hold four RS-25 rocket motors and two solid rocket boosters that produce a combined 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I to space.

In addition, the engine section includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the stage’s two liquid propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.

This fall, NASA will work with core stage lead contractor, Boeing, to attach the four RS-25 engines and connect them to the main propulsion systems inside the engine section.

The SLS — managed out of the Marshal Space Flight Center  — will launch the first woman and next man to the moon from Cape Canaveral, ahead of NASA missions to Mars.

The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the only one capable of sending astronauts, the Orion capsule, and heavy cargo to the moon in a single mission.

Engine Section for SLS Rocket Moved for Final Integration

NEW ORLEANS — Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility recently moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage.

The Space Launch System is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment to the rest of the stage.

The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket and Orion on the Artemis lunar missions. The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Leidos Consolidates MDA Support in Cummings Research Park

After supporting the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville for more than 15 years, Leidos spent $3 million to retrofit its first physical systems and support center in Huntsville.

Leidos Defense Group President Gerry Fasano. (Leidos Photo/Shileshia Milligan)

The 63,000-square-foot building at 915 Explorer Boulevard in Cummings Research Park consolidates the defense division of the company into one Huntsville location. Defense Group President Gerry Fasano headlined the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday along with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several foreign military delegations.

“This new facility signifies our continued growth in Huntsville, but it also supports our customers in helping them solve problems from a city and a region known for its innovation,” said Fasano. “We help our customers in the defense industry achieve effective, sustained military advantage … from support for C4 (command, control, communications, and computers/cyber) to cyberspace.

“We are doing that from right here in Huntsville. Let’s keep it local.”

In 2016, Lockheed Services Group took $5 billion and merged it with another $5 billion from Leidos to create a $10 billion organization carrying the Leidos name. The move gave Leidos a much bigger footprint in each of the company’s four major areas of expertise: defense, civil, health and intelligence.

Three of those four groups have roots in Huntsville.

The Leidos team has been part of the Patriot and THAAD missile programs and supports MDA requirements and critical services to the warfighter. The new location features automated test equipment that helps provide those systems to Leidos customers at home and abroad.

“Leidos’ civil division has been contracted to NASA here in Huntsville for several years, providing logistics for all the different materials made for the International Space Station,” said Barry McDaniel, vice president of Maritime for Leidos, overseeing support for all branches of the military including the Army.

“Intelligence is also coming to Huntsville soon because the FBI is here; but our missile defense teams have been scattered. This building is an opportunity to consolidate everything related to the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency counter unmanned air systems. That includes supporting customers all over the world including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and all of Europe.”

Military delegations from Germany and the Netherlands were in attendance.

“It’s not just about what is happening in this building, but we have five other locations and we are about to put more customers in Huntsville,” said Fasano. “That includes technical field support for U.S. Army RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aircraft systems right here at Redstone Arsenal; end-user IT services for ten NASA centers; and end-user IT services for 37,000 Army Corps of Engineers from our corridors right here in Huntsville.”

The RQ-7 Shadow is the Army’s unmanned aerial vehicle, also used by the Australian and Swedish armies for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and battle damage assessment.

Fasano also announced the arrival of Leidos Live – the company’s Innovation Virtual Experience coming to Huntsville in November. Leidos Live is an immersive technology lab and showcase on wheels where visitors will find some of Leidos’ top innovations brought to life. Fasano said it is a must-see.

Leidos, the name comes from the word kaleidoscope – the centerpiece of the instrument from which complex problems are seen from every different angle, is an IT and engineering services company. Leidos employs 235 people in Huntsville out of 34,000 in every state and more than 30 countries.

“To the Leidos team, we are so delighted to see the growth and the expansion and all the things that have happened here that make our economy move forward,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Five years ago, we started with a very small Leidos group. Today you are threefold, and it’s a story told about Huntsville time and time again – companies throughout Research Park and throughout this city who are growing organically, growing where they are, getting bigger and bigger. Leidos has grown so much they needed a new building.

“We are so glad to be able to help them build it.”

Dynetics Technical Solutions Wins Army Priority Strategic Hypersonics Program

Dynetics Technical Solutions has been awarded a $351.6 million contract to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body prototypes. DTS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huntsville-based Dynetics,

Under an Other Transaction Agreement contract, over a three-year agreement period, DTS will produce 20 glide body assemblies for use by the Army, Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, with an option for additional quantities.   DTS will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories for development and production of the glide body.

The glide body will be a part of an integrated Army hypersonic weapon system prototype that will deliver residual combat capability to soldiers by 2023.

“We are honored to be selected for this high priority national security program,” said DTS President Steve Cook. “Dynetics has been developing enabling technologies for many years. The common hypersonic glide body is a vital component in the National Defense Strategy that includes weapons with increased power.

“Our team is pleased the Army saw that our highly-skilled engineers and technicians can bring this technology rapidly and affordably to the warfighter.”

As the prime contractor for the C-HGB, DTS will provide program and supplier management; procurement; assembly, integration and testing; electrical and mechanical manufacturing; and systems engineering for the C-HGB.

DTS will lead that includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raythe0n. They will complete the assembly, integration and test at their North Alabama locations.

“We have selected a strong team with varying skillsets to help the U.S. counter the threat from Russian and Chinese advances in hypersonic weapons,” Cook said. “Each of these companies will bring decades of experience and will join science and technological capabilities to make a modern prototype and eventually become a program of record.”

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems will provide cable, electrical and mechanical manufacturing.  The company will provide engineering, program management, and production support from their Huntsville, San Diego and Tupelo, Miss., locations.

“We’re excited to be part of the Dynetics team, as C-HGB begins its transition from laboratory to production, and ultimately into field operations,” stated Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.  “We look forward to applying our extensive experience in manufacturing complex systems and leveraging our longstanding relationship with the national laboratories to expedite the delivery of this strategically important capability.”

Lockheed Martin will support in manufacturing, assembly, integration, test, systems engineering and analysis.  Lockheed Martin will conduct this work at their Alabama, Colorado and California facilities, respectively.

“Lockheed Martin is privileged to team with Dynetics to collaboratively build the nation’s next hypersonic glide body prototype,” said Eric Scherff, vice president for Hypersonic Strike Programs for Lockheed Martin Space. “We are proud to partner on this incredible team working toward transforming research and technology into the next generation weapon system for the warfighter.”

As a principal subcontractor on this program, Raytheon will use its extensive experience in advanced hypersonic technology to build and deliver the control, actuation and power-conditioning subassemblies that control flight of the new common hypersonic glide body. The company will also help assemble and test the new glide body.

“Raytheon is working closely with Dynetics and its industry partners to quickly field the hypersonic weapon and provide our nation’s military with the tools it needs to stay ahead of the escalating threat,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “The development of hypersonic weapons is a priority for our country, and we are aggressively working to produce offensive and defensive solutions.”

Separately, DTS has been selected by Lockheed Martin to be a part of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LHRW) systems integration contract also led by the U.S. Army’s RCCTO. The LHRW program will introduce a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles that can launch from ground platforms. The LRHW prototype includes the new C-HGB, an existing, refurbished trailer and truck to be modified as a new launcher, and an existing Army command and control system.

DTS will develop launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform. The company will also provide flight test and training support.

DTS will now support both hypersonic efforts and, collectively, these awards will total $407.6 million for the corporation.

Bechtel Cleared for Take-off in the Rocket City

One of the nation’s top construction/engineering companies has expanded its operations in the Rocket City.

Bechtel opened a new office Monday in Cummings Research Park.

This expanded presence in Huntsville will increase operational efficiencies and improve Bechtel’s collaboration with aerospace and defense industry partners, the company said.

“Today, we reflect on Bechtel’s rich history in Huntsville,” said Mike Costas, Bechtel’s Defense and Space general manager. “Today, our team looks to the future with aspirations of being an integral part of this community, providing unmatched expertise to our customers, while helping them deliver on their mission objectives.”

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included local elected officials, Bechtel colleagues and guests.

“We are excited to celebrate Bechtel’s growth in our community,” said Erin Koshut, executive director of Cummings Research Park. “Huntsville/Madison County has a ripe environment for their company to be successful – we offer a smart workforce and a beautiful, affordable place for their employees to live and raise their families.

“We look forward to our continued partnership as Bechtel moves into CRP.”

Bechtel’s history of service to the aerospace and defense industries in Huntsville goes back decades. Most recently, Bechtel-led Kwajalein Range Services, which includes Leidos, managed and operated the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands from 2002 through 2018. KRS performed engineering and business services at two Huntsville locations.

From the 1990s until 2012, Bechtel employed more than 100 professionals in Madison County as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, which is designed to protect the United States from attack by long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Additionally, the Huntsville team also has completed a number of nuclear power plants in the area, including Browns Ferry and Watts Bar, which supply electricity for more than 1 million households in the Tennessee Valley.

“Our employees are excited to once again be a part of the United States’ mission to maintain a secure national deterrent, while advancing our aeronautics and space exploration for the next generation,” said Project Engineering Manager Nathan McAdams. “The Huntsville team will work to deliver as promised to our customers and to the City of Huntsville.”

Currently, the Bechtel Huntsville team is supporting Boeing with various engineering, procurement, and construction needs. Bechtel plans to continue expanding its presence in the Huntsville area.

Marshall to Lead Lunar Lander Program with Huntsvillian in Charge

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered some welcome news Friday to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

In fact, there were two announcements:

One – he said the Marshall Center, which is in charge of developing the rocket program, will also manage the lunar lander program.

And, two, a Huntsvillian will lead that program.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today … for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”

The program will be managed by Huntsville native Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan.

“Imagine this: We are landing the next man and the first woman,” Bridenstine said. “The program that will be managed here … that landing system is being managed … by one of NASA’s best engineers, right here, and she just so happens to be a woman.”

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at Marshall.

“Lisa’s appointment to this key role not only reflects NASA’s confidence in her visionary leadership, but confidence in the proven expertise and world-class capability that define Marshall’s contributions to safely landing humans on the Moon and launching complex spacecraft to the Moon and Mars,” said Marshall Director Jody Singer.

Bridenstine also noted that some members of Texas’ congressional delegation were upset that work was being split between Marshall and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, after lobbying the space agency to get the lander program.

“I understand some of their concerns,” Bridenstine said. “I will say that this is not a decision that was made lightly. A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over, really, well over 10 years now regarding landing systems.”

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks thanked Bridenstine for recognizing the work performed at Marshall.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers.

“I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.”

With years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the moon.

The Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.

 

Airport CEO: Huntsville’s Economic Future is Tied to Airport’s Success

By Rick Tucker

Rick Tucker

Huntsville is one of the fastest growing local economies in our nation. Boosted by federal and private sector investments, our region is on a strong economic trajectory. In fact, a recent population boom has put the Rocket City on track to potentially be the largest city in Alabama in the next six years.

Our airport represents a key component to continuing this trend because current and new industry considering locating to our region depend on passenger and air cargo operations that support their own operating needs. The local economy depends on our ability to connect with other communities across the globe, so Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is vital to maintain those bonds as the region’s gateway to the world.

But similar to other airports around the country, HSV needs infrastructure investments in order to continue to be able to meet the expected flow of passengers and goods in the future. Projected growth in the area and HSV’s desire to continue to propel this region forward is why in 2012 the airport completed a major $92 million terminal and landside project that included creation of a public waiting area, a security screening checkpoint, a baggage claim and a second parking deck. Those necessary upgrades that were a part of the 2002 Master Plan update have improved the passenger experience and the efficiency of the airport.

Although HSV has seen many improvements and aesthetically offers visitors a very warm welcome to our community, other portions of our terminal are between 30 and 50 years old and in immediate need of improvement. As determined by HSV’s current Master Plan update, the parts of the airport’s facility that passengers use every day, such as elevators, escalators, restrooms and concessions, need redevelopment and expansion to keep up with demand.

In addition, these anticipated terminal improvement projects are imperative to adhere to new federal standards and provide our passengers with facilities that meet their expectations like nursing rooms and pet relief areas.  The terminal improvement projects would reinvigorate HSV and set the stage for continued growth for our region for years to come.

We are grateful to Senator Shelby and our Alabama congressional delegation for recently securing significant FAA discretionary grants, however these funds are designated for specific federal government high priority airfield projects. The previously mentioned terminal improvement projects are considered a lower priority for federal discretionary grants. Therefore, our challenge is to find funding for these necessary terminal improvement projects that are currently on hold.

The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require taxpayers to foot the bill.

If Congress would lift the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — a small user fee paid only by air travelers on which airports depend to fund their infrastructure – HSV could begin this project immediately. The PFC is federally capped at a maximum of $4.50 and hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making it ineffective and inadequate to serve 21st century airports that have experienced inflation just like everyone else.

For example, HSV’s current PFC dollars are already committed through 2030. By modernizing the PFC for the first time since 2001, Congress would allow our airport to generate funding from only the people using the airport, for the project referenced above – all without a dime of taxpayer dollars.

Starting these terminal improvement projects would have a major impact on our region’s economy. On top of the tens of thousands of jobs that Alabama’s airports already support, it’s estimated that these projects would create 608 construction jobs and inject $19.1 million into the Huntsville economy via construction labor wages alone.

Some will say that we should leave the PFC alone. However, those voices fail to acknowledge that maintaining the current PFC could result in stalled growth in Huntsville.

The airport has a major footprint on the local economy, with a total regional economic direct impact of 7,692 jobs equating to a payroll of $474,327,000 and a total multiplied impact of 24,293 jobs equating to a payroll of $942,828,000. Failing to upgrade our airport infrastructure could harm our economy and job growth.

We have recently experienced lower fares at HSV due to the addition of two new carriers and the competition that those carriers created in the market. The improved and expanded infrastructure projects will further encourage the airlines to grow and expand, therefore modernizing the PFC can have a positive and direct impact on passenger fares.

HSV is not alone, America’s airports need nearly $130 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to match the demand. It sounds like a staggering number, but the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports has doubled since 2000 to approximately one billion annually. Conversely, the PFC that pays for critical infrastructure of those airports has not increased in nearly two decades. These airports in their current state were designed for half of that traffic so it is clear that something must be done to modernize airports.

Airports across the country and organizations such as Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stand alongside numerous conservative organizations asking Congress to consider eliminating the PFC cap entirely or, raising the cap and adjusting it periodically for construction cost inflation.

There’s no doubt that Huntsville is a city on the rise. With a strong economy and a growing population, we are poised to continue to enjoy this success.

HSV has always worked to provide the community with an airport that acts as an economic engine by taking proactive measures that allow for immediate and long-term growth. However, to stay on this path we must ensure that our airport is able to meet the vital needs of the growing population and business community.

Modernizing the PFC isn’t just important for HSV – it’s critical for the future of our region.

(Rick Tucker is the CEO of Huntsville International Airport)

 

26 Huntsville, Madison Businesses Named to Inc. 5000

More than two dozen local companies have landed on this year’s version of the Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

The list represents the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment — its independent small businesses.

There are 26 businesses from Huntsville and Madison with 17 performing government services. Also included are three engineering firms, two real estate companies, one IT and one human resources business.

The 2019 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2015 to 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2018. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018 is $2 million.

Here are this year’s Huntsville-Madison companies listed by ranking:

617 – Cintel, 711 percent, $2.9 million, government services; 727 – Crossflow Technologies, 603 percent, $2.9 million, engineering; 927 – Kord Technologies, 458 percent, $70.1 million, government services; 942 – Freedom Real Estate, 451 percent, $3.7 million, real estate; 1,179 – Shearer, 352 percent, $6.4 million, engineering; 1,408 – Matt Curtis Real Estate (Madison), 293 percent, $5.2 million, real estate; 1,553 – Cortina Solutions, 267 percent, $2.7 million, government services; 1,591 – Martin Federal, 258 percent, $16.9 million, government services; 1,651 – R2C, 249 percent, $5 million, government services; 1,655 – Corporate Tax Advisors, 248 percent, $3.2 million, financial services;

2,083 – Nou Systems, 194 percent, $23.2 million, government services; 2,106 – Noetic Strategies, 191 percent, $4.6 million, IT management; 2,170 – Hill Technical Solutions, 186 percent, $9.9 million, government services; 2,223 – Pinnacle Solutions, 181 percent, $61.9 million, government services; 2,297 – LSINC, 175 percent, $12.7 million, government services; 2,452 – IronMountain Solutions, 162 percent, $42.1 million, government services; 2,818 – i3, 134 percent, $69.8 million, government services; 2,872 – Mission Driven Research, 130 percent, $3.4, million, government services; 2,927 – nLogic, 128 percent, $48.5 million, government services; 2,961 – Engenius Micro, 126 percent, $2.9 million, government services;

3,242 – Simulation Technologies, 112 percent, $31.6 million, engineering; 4,046 – Bevilacqua Research, 80 percent, $52.6 million, government services; 4,200 – Torch Technologies, 74 percent, $405.4 million, government services; 4,316 – Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, P.C., 71 percent, $4.6 million, financial services; 4,404 – Trideum Corp., 68 percent, $27.7 million, government services; 4,976 – Spur, 53 percent, $34.9 million, human resources.

Pruning Cummings Research Park Infuses Vibrancy, Marketability

Any good gardener knows a first-class park requires long-term planning and seasonal pruning to ensure its vibrancy.

In 1962, Teledyne Brown Engineering (then Brown Engineering) lay deep roots on 100 acres off a dirt road that later became Sparkman Drive.

IBM, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville quickly followed. Since then, Cummings Research Park’s 3,843 acres of prime Huntsville real estate has been a focal point of a 50-year master plan.

Cummings Research Park, with a 92 percent occupancy rate and 240 untouched acres to spare, is the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world.

But to better understand the growth strategy at work in the park, it is best to differentiate between Research Park East and Research Park West.

“When we talk about current growth, we mean business growth from companies within the park, especially on the west side,” said Erin Koshut, the executive director of Cummings Research Park. “On the east side, market studies show we need to redevelop that area to create greater density and to replace 1960s and 1970s buildings with properties that align with today’s economy. That will infuse the older section with new vibrancy.

“By doing that, we won’t have to look at physical land expansion per se for a very long time.”

Within the master plan are five-year work plans. The city is currently working off a plan finalized in 2016; a new plan begins in 2021. The plan acknowledges that some of the original buildings and key properties in the oldest sections of Research Park East are no longer viable in the market.

“Without the revitalization, if a company wants to go in and invest in that part of the park, they wouldn’t get their return on investment,” said Koshut. “That is why the zoning ordinances were changed for Research Park East – to give back some of the land to the park and to reduce economic setbacks.”

Cummings Research Park East

Rendering of Bradford Crossing

One such property is at Bradford and Wynn drives on the former site of the St. John Paul II Catholic High School. Driven Capital Partners in California purchased the four-acre site and plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use site called Bradford Crossing.

“Article 55 of the new zoning ordinance is very specific and says if you have a retail element on the ground floor, there has to be two or more uses,” said Koshut. “We cannot build a standalone gas station or drop a superstore in there, but a multistory building with ground floor retail will create density on a small but efficient parcel of land.

“No decision has been made on what other uses will be included, but it could be office space, multi-family residences, a hotel, or a mixture of all three on upper floors.”

There are four big red circles marking areas of Cummings Research Park East targeted for potential mixed-use redevelopment. Currently, no groundbreaking date is set for Bradford Crossing.

“This is not just the (Huntsville-Madison County) Chamber or the city calling for these changes,” said Koshut. “We have landowners like the Olin King family at Crown Leasing who own property on Bradford Drive. They demolished the building that was on it and now have the land for sale. Business and landowners understand the flavor of changes happening in the older section of the park.”

Other planned redevelopments include converting Executive Plaza off Sparkman Drive into a multi-use facility, including an arena for the UAH hockey team and convocations; and Huntsville’s plans to donate up to $1.8 million in land to Alabama’s third magnet school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. It has a temporary home at the Tom Bevill Center on UAH’s campus, but plans are to build a permanent location in Cummings Research Park East by 2022.

“This will give the whole park along the outskirts of UAH, a big infusion of vibrancy and marketability,” said Koshut.

Cummings Research Park West

The new Radiance Technologies facility will consolidate operations and employees.

Over in Cummings Research Park West, it is not about redevelopment but about taking what is there, making it better, and expanding the footprint. In fact, Cummings Research Park West will see three major projects and numerous moderate but significant business expansions this year.

By the end of the year, Radiance Technologies will be moving into a 100,000-square-foot facility at 310 Bob Heath Drive. The new facility will consolidate operations and employees, but with significant growth, Radiance will keep its 38,000-square-foot facility on Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park East for a while.

The new $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is sprouting from a 20-acre site at Old Madison Pike and Jan Davis Drive. It is scheduled to open in 2020.

The $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is scheduled to open next year.

“BAE Systems has a long history with Huntsville dating back many years when they had only a couple of employees,” said Koshut. “We are proud to see them bringing in 200 employees, many new hires, and some recruited to Huntsville from the Northeast.”

Fifty-four-foot walls are up around the $200 million Blue Origin rocket engine production facility on Explorer Drive. Expected to open its doors in March 2020, Blue Origin is estimated to bring up to 300 jobs to the local economy.

Dynetics just expanded its footprint with the 78,000 square-foot Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility; and IronMountain Solutions found a new home on Voyager Way.

“We have the first apartments, Watermark at Bridge Street Town Centre, built in Research Park,” said Koshut. “They consist of two four-story buildings and 240 apartments. Over half already leased before they open and of course a majority of those people work in Research Park.”

She said they would like to see an extension of Bridge Street Town Centre or at least retail that is congruent to Bridge Street grow into the commercial retail corridor between Bridge Street’s outdoor shopping promenade and Lake 4.

It’s All for the Employees

“There is a key component of all this expansion and redevelopment,” said Koshut. “It is driven by the wants and needs of employees.

“These companies want to recruit top talent to Huntsville, and they want to retain them. They require conveniences, activities, and amenities that have been available to them in cities where they are recruited from, many bigger than Huntsville.”

This includes access luxury apartments and single-family homes in or surrounding the park; creating a sense of vibrancy and community with activities such as the Food Truck Fest that draws some 300 people a month; free monthly happy hours in the park; and free Suzy’s Pops or Steel City Pops during the summer.

Later this summer or early fall, Koshut said the city will launch a pilot Bike Share project in Cummings Research Park West with three bike-share stations.

“As the city continues to invest in that program, we hope to connect many bike-share systems across the city so, at any time, an employee can hop on a bike and ride out to lunch,” said Koshut. “Young people enjoy being outside and easily get tired of being stuck in an office all day. Huntsville companies are recruiting people from cities that offer a quality lifestyle amenity.”

So, as new buildings are sprouting up all over Cumming Research Park, it always helps to keep the park neatly clipped and pruned to inspire growth and opportunities among the older, well-established buildings alongside the new and flourishing.