U.S. Department of Transportation Awards $9.26M for Blake Bottom Road Widening Project

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced that the Trump Administration will award $9.26 million to Madison County for the Blake Bottom Road Widening Project.

The award is part of some $900 million in American infrastructure projects through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program.

“The administration is targeting BUILD Transportation grants to repair, rebuild, and revitalize significant infrastructure projects across the country,” Chao said.

The project in Madison County will widen approximately 2.5 miles of Blake Bottom Road from two lanes to five lanes from Research Park Boulevard to Jeff Road.

By adding a travel lane in each direction, drainage improvements, and sidewalks, the project seeks to reduce crashes and more safely accommodate traffic increases expected from the separate Research Park Boulevard-Blake Bottom Road interchange project currently underway. 

Fiscal Year 2019 BUILD Transportation grants are for investments in surface transportation infrastructure and have been awarded on a competitive basis to projects with a significant impact in their local or regional communities. BUILD funding supports roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation.  

Leidos Live Technology Showcase Rolls into Huntsville

The Leidos Live Technology Showcase rolled into Huntsville this week for a three-day interactive demonstration of the company’s wide-ranging technological capabilities.

The purple 53-foot double-wide semi-truck expanded into a full mobile technology exhibit with augmented reality experiences, virtual reality demonstrations and interactive modules that bring Leidos technology to life.

The Leidos exhibit includes a 3D virtual tour inside the body demonstrating Leidos’ work with peptides in cancer research. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The exhibit arrived Tuesday at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and engineering students experienced Leidos’ IT and cybersecurity solutions.

The tour traveled to the new Leidos headquarters in Cummings Research Park on Wednesday where employees and guests were treated to ice cream and barbeque while touring the interactive exhibits.

On Thursday, it moved to Redstone Arsenal so Leidos customers could also enjoy the experience.

Angela Pounders, the Leidos business development field office manager in Huntsville, said there are some exciting things happening here in Huntsville for the company.

“We work across a broad spectrum and have a lot of business alliances in the areas of healthcare, space, civil intelligence, military, and humanitarian efforts,” Pounders said. “We have employees working in program offices on the Arsenal and we even have people in Anniston supporting FEMA. But one of things I am excited about is that we have the world’s largest supply chain in Antarctica.”

Each exhibit showcases each segment of that spectrum including a 3D virtual tour inside the body demonstrating Leidos’ work with peptides in cancer research.

One of the exhibits consist of augmented reality posters of employees who come to life and start talking to you. The second part of the presentation uses virtual reality goggles to provide a 360-degree virtual look at Leidos’ work in Antarctica. It takes you on a tour of the 100,000 square feet of facilities, some thousands of miles apart in areas that are so desolate, there are no cellphones, hospitals, restaurants or people, except for Leidos workers. Viewers also go under the ice with Antarctic ice swimmers.

Visitors can sit in a simulator for firing machine guns utilizing Leidos software. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Visitors can sit in a simulator for firing machine guns utilizing Leidos software; and participate via big screen in sweeping for and destroying improvised explosive devices on the battlefield anywhere in the world.

Using microwave technology on the front of the vehicle, the exhibit puts you behind the tank or military vehicle so you can identify IEDs on the path ahead and detonate them safely.

A gigantic flat-screen table shows the operational capabilities of robotically designed unmanned surface vessels. Currently in the pilot phase, these USVs can carry a variety of Leidos humanitarian, research, or military sensor packages into treacherous waters and storms where it is too dangerous for the Navy.

“These vessels usually stay out for three months at a time and unlike drones that are controlled remotely by humans, these vessels have no interaction with any humans,” said Dennis Card, Leidos tour manager. “There is only one built right now and it went to Hawaii and back from San Diego. Another one, twice as large is being built and it will go out from Gulfport, Miss.”

One of the interactive demonstrations incorporates a Tetris-like virtualization game that brings the viewer into the conveyor system to store packages bound for the International Space Station.

“We run cargo mission contracts for NASA for all the cargo and resupply efforts going to the International Space Station,” said Suzzanna Martinez, Leidos director of strategic communications. “These resupply orders come from the astronauts and our system packs and stores the cargo for whatever different kind of vessel will be going up.”

A Tetris-like virtualization game brings the viewer into the logistics system of the International Space Station. (Photo/Steve Babin)

In everyday life where no one really knows it, Leidos air traffic control software is used to pick up communications between air traffic towers, to scan luggage, and much more.

Leidos was started by Dr. J. Robert Beyster in 1969. An exact model of his original 1969 Chevrolet Malibu, painted in the famous Leidos purple, is also part of the traveling show and at the end of the tour, will be raffled off to a lucky Leidos employee.

The roadshow also travels with a purple ice cream truck.

“We call it the Leidos Scoop Ice Cream Truck and ice cream socials are a grassroots way of saying thank you to our customers on a nice hot day,” said Martinez. “We take it out to Federal Aviation Administration headquarters for National Aviation Day, and we have taken it to NASA headquarters in Washington, DC for National Space Day and people love it.”

The innovation showcase and its other components are all a part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Welcome to Mars: VBC’s New Out of This World Music Hall

Rendering shows the interior of Mars Music Hall.

Welcome to Huntsville, Rocket City USA and home to all things related to space.

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a grand opening of a music venue with a name to match?

Introducing the Von Braun Center’s newest gem: Mars Music Hall.

It’s been just a little over a year since the August 2018 groundbreaking and progress has been right on target.

Held at the VBC’s Propst Arena, the special name reveal event Tuesday night had a tie in with the season’s introduction of the Huntsville Havoc hockey team.

“We’re getting really close to opening,” VBC Executive Director Steve Maples said of Mars. “It’s an exciting time to be in Huntsville.

A new LED lighting system in Propst Arena was unveiled. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“The City of Huntsville is developing at a rapid pace and is constantly attracting out-of-market visitors and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.  Adding this size and type of music venue to the heart of the city is an important step in continuing that growth.”

VBC Executive Director Steve Maples (Photo/Steve Babin)

Along with meeting the team and viewing a demonstration of the newly installed LED lights; the crowd was shown a video presentation and sampling of the 2020 concert lineup.

The video featured updated renderings by Matheny Goldmon of Rhythm on Monroe – a full-service restaurant and rooftop bar connected to Mars that will open in the spring.

“Rhythm will be the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner, after-show cocktails, or just a great dining spot without attending an event,” said Maples.

Rhythm, aptly named for the different types of musical performances hosted at the VBC on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street, will serve locally sourced ingredients and provide fresh urban fare.

It will feature craft brews, a curated wine list, and handmade cocktails that guests will be able to enjoy while sitting near fire pits at the rooftop bar overlooking Big Spring Park.

Street view rendering shows entrance to Mars and Rhythm. (Matheny Goldmon)

Mars Music Hall will open its doors Jan. 3 with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The event is predicted to be a sellout. With a 1,575-person capacity, this intimate setting will offer great acoustics for a variety of events ranging from concerts to comedy acts and everything in between.

Among the acts announced for the concert lineup will be Black Jacket Symphony, Tig Notaro, Chris Janson, Graham Nash, Jo Dee Messina and many others.  To see the full lineup of announced performances and to learn about purchasing tickets, visit marsmusichall.com.

“I’m excited about this music hall,” said Maples. “Huntsville needs this music hall. The venue is so cool and has an intimate feeling.

“Nashville is excited about the music hall and is sending us a lot of bands.”

 

 

 

 

Launch 2035 Initiates 3-County Regional Workforce and Labor Market Assessment Study

Launch 2035 and city leaders from Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties blasted off their first major initiative – a collaborative assessment study of the area’s regional workforce and labor market.

The announcement comes less than 90 days after six mayors from across Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties, formally signed an historic three-county regional agreement of collaboration and cooperation to work together for the future good of the regional economy.

Bill Marks: “Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

From the high-tech boardroom round table at the Huntsville International Airport, Launch 2035 Chair retired Army Col. Bill Marks said Launch 2035 was formed in 2014 to encourage and facilitate a collective 20-year vision of Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties that would ensure the North Alabama region continues to prosper.

“Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before,” said Marks. “It is a signal to all our communities, our state, and future businesses that we are committed to ensuring our region functions at the highest levels of collaboration for years to come.”

Launch 2035 has three areas of focus: workforce, entrepreneurship, and land use planning.

“That’s where this privately funded assessment looks at our labor talent, presents leading practices in workforce development, and provides a deeper understanding of the opportunities we have in our workforce within our region,” Marks said. “It is a proactive effort to understand the current labor market and our ability to continue to grow for current and future employer needs in the region.”

Among the speakers at the announcement was Harry Schmidt, economic development consultant for the Tennessee Valley Authority Alabama Region.

“We are glad to be teaming up with regional partners, including local power companies and others, to continue to promote business success in the region,” Schmidt said. “We are pleased to support this workforce and labor study because one of TVA’s core principles is to work to improve the quality of life for people in the valley. One of the primary ways we do that is by job growth and identifying quality job opportunities for people.”

John Seymour, president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said changes in lifestyle means city leaders can no longer think just about their own communities but must start thinking about the whole region.

“Jobs in Madison County are different sometimes than the jobs in Limestone and Morgan County,” Seymour said. “We have to think about recruiting folks from across those lines to fill the positions that are available in our various communities. As a community and as a region, we have to think regional to be successful. I see this as an opportunity to look forward.”

“This study will help us grow our workforce in our communities and provide us with a great tool as we continue to work together as a region to bring more industry and business to the area,” said Jennifer Williamson, president of the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce. “It is also a great tool for us to use to support our existing businesses and industry.”

Other leaders at the announcement included Bethany Shockney, president of Limestone County Economic Development Association; Rick Tucker, executive director of the Huntsville Port Authority; and Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Tucker: “Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“Launch 2035 contracted with Deloitte to do this labor analysis,” said Cape. “This study is looking forward because through the use of confidential interviews with companies, and discussing real time activities with employers, we can gear our workforce development and activities to meet a needed we know is coming. We look forward to getting these results, and we will work with our partners to make sure we have a workforce of the future.”

Rick Tucker has been part of Launch 2035 from its inception.

“Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring,” he said. “It is just another step in the region’s working together in a collaborative way to address the opportunities and issues facing our region. That is what we do here at the Port of Huntsville – serve this region; and we are glad to be a participant in this study, trying to address this important topic of the labor force in our marketplace. We look forward to continuing this collaboration throughout the region.”

Wes Kelley, president and CEO of Huntsville Utilities, was unable to attend but is also a partner in the initiative. Penny Townson, vice president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, stood in for President and CEO Jeremy Nails who could not attend.

Among Launch 2035’s other initiatives are the team’s continuing work on the Singing River Trail – 70 miles of Native American bike, hike, and walking trails that connects the region .

“The Singing River Trail is an example of the continued growth and economic development we see in our region,” Tucker said. “That’s what businesses and community leaders from across the region want to see – a long-term impact of our investments and hard work.”

MartinFederal Awarded $3.5 Million RMDA Contract

MartinFederal Consulting has been awarded a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Army Records Management and Declassification Agency.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Records Management and Declassification Agency to provide the highest level of service possible,” said Corey Martin, company president and CEO. “We have a tremendous team with vast experience in records management and are thrilled about this opportunity. “

The Records Management and Declassification Agency is responsible for the entire spectrum of the Army’s interrelated records management programs including Army Records Management, Army Freedom of Information, Army Privacy, Civil Liberties, Joint Services Records Research, and Declassification of Army Records.

Headquartered in Huntsville, MartinFederal is an SBA 8(a) and SDVOSB providing high-tech solutions to the federal government. Visit www.martinfed.com.

Happy Halloween! Cecil Ashburn set to Reopen by End of the Month

The upcoming reopening of Cecil Ashburn has commuters rejoicing as they look forward to cutting their driving time down considerably.

Business owners are also rejoicing, as they anticipate a return to normalcy and faster commutes for themselves and their clientele when two lanes of the road are scheduled to open by the end of the month.

Ben Patterson, general manager of Mellow Mushroom in Jones Valley, admitted that the restaurant has taken a hit, as diners have chosen to go elsewhere for pizza rather than brave the traffic from the other side of the mountain.

“It has definitely hurt business,” he said. “We have been down quite a bit since January.”

Widely known for its eclectic, funky atmosphere, Mellow Mushroom does have some pretty loyal clientele and Patterson added that although they did continue to see many of their regular diners at dinner and lunch, the overall numbers were down through the winter.

“We did have an ok summer,” Patterson said. “Our projections were a little off and we did a little better than we thought we would.”

As for their neighbors across the street at Terrame Day Spa, business has remained steady. Owner Charles Johnson said his business has fared well throughout the shutdown.

“We have been very fortunate because people make appointments with us and they are able to plan it out a little bit,” he said.

Since the closing of Cecil Ashburn in January, an average 10-minute commute can take as much as 25 minutes, and Johnson believes the inconvenience of the extra drive time weighs heavily on the consumer’s decision on where to eat and shop.

He said Terrame has fared well during the shutdown due to it being a largely appointment-based establishment with a very loyal customer base.

“Business has remained steady,” Johnson said. “But I know, with restaurants and other businesses, the plans are often made at the last minute.”

According to the city, the asphalt wearing layer, temporary striping and traffic control devices will be installed on the eastbound lanes prior to reopening two lanes to traffic.

Other work, including completing concrete ditches along the north side and completion of the remaining lanes on Sutton Road, will continue after October.

The $18 million project is expected to be completed by May 2020.

 

 

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.

Radiance Wins Contract to Support NASIC; Ceiling of $997M

Radiance Technologies has been awarded a Blanket Purchase Agreement by the General Services Administration to provide scientific and technical intelligence support services to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. The agreement has a five-year base period, five one-year option periods, and a total ceiling of $997 million.

“Our win is the culmination of years of hard work that started with a single task supporting NASIC as a subcontractor in 2001,” said Bryan Johnson, Radiance Chief Operating Officer. “Over the years, our goal has simply been to provide NASIC the best support possible. We are honored to continue that support as a prime contractor.”

The majority of work will be performed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Beavercreek, Ohio.

The Radiance contractor team includes Battelle, COLSA Corp., Northrop Grumman, Parsons Government Services and Teledyne Brown Engineering.

TVA Offering STEM Grants for K-12 Educators

The TVA STEM Classroom Grant Program sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization, is now open for applications. The program funds Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning projects in classrooms and schools in the TVA service areas throughout the Tennessee Valley.

The 2019-2020 application closes Oct. 20. Grants may be requested in amounts up to $5,000. Eligible applicants are teachers or school administrators in public schools, grades K-12. Schools must be in the TVA service area and receive power from a TVA distributor.

“TVA recognizes that excellence in education is the key to our future workforce in the Valley,” said TVA STEM Education Program Manager Rachel Crickmar. “We want to work directly with teachers to support initiatives that advance STEM activities in the classroom to develop a talent pipeline for TVA and its customers.”

Last year’s program awarded $580,000 in grants to schools across the Tennessee Valley. The competitive grant program provides teachers the opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000 on STEM projects with preference given to grant applications that explore TVA’s primary area of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving.

Visit the tsin.org  to learn more about grant requirements, see examples of previously funded projects, and apply for funding.

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.