Booz Allen Digital Soldier Program Aims to Make Soldier ‘Unbeatable’

In a conference room at Booz Allen’s fifth-floor Bridge Street office, anyone wearing virtual reality headgear can instantly be standing in the open door of a military plane flying above a training facility on the United States base of the instructor’s choosing.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield. (Photo/Booz Allen)

A first-timer wearing the contraption looks around the inside of the plane, steps to the edge of the door and is gripped by an uneasy sensation after looking down. Minutes later, the same first-timer shoots “bad guys’’ in an urban environment resembling those seen on battle footage from the Middle East, a realistic M4 that is surprisingly light providing the firepower.

There’s more, and it’s all part of Booz Allen’s Digital Soldier initiative the company displayed to media members. Company site leader and Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson, a veteran with defense department expertise, said Vice President of Global Defense Joel Dillon and Principal of Global Defense Stephanie Boone-Shaw were on a “road show’’ of sorts.

“Joel and Stephanie are demonstrating some of the capabilities Booz Allen has invested in,’’ Hudson said. “They’re demonstrating these technologies and showing everybody what Booz Allen has to offer.’’

Simulation — which Dillon said could be a big money saver for defense — is just part of Digital Soldier.

A primary talking point is “open architecture,’’ which is intended to make adding, upgrading and swapping components easy. For example, Dillon, a jumpmaster and highly decorated Army officer (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster are on an impressive resume that includes a master’s from Stanford and bachelor’s from West Point) talks about the “Christmas tree’’ effect.

“Soldiers have all of these great pieces of equipment,’’ he said, “but they’re hanging off them like an ornament.’’

With body armor and all the trappings, a soldier carries an added 130 pounds. That’s more than the bulky equipment soldiers had in World War II.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing that weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield.

“The Army has got to modernize, got to really transform how they do business,’’ Boone-Shaw said. “The acquisition process takes too long, is way too slow. Our enemies and Near Peers have watched how the military fights and the tactics while we’ve been at war for a couple of decades.

“They also have access to technology that allowed them to catch up with their capability to the U.S. The U.S. has to maintain the advantage.’’

Speed, integration using open architecture and combining fast-improving technology such as GPS and satellites, mission adaptability and maintaining military superiority are some of the buzz words and phrases involved in Digital Soldier.

But, Dillon said, Booz Allen sets itself apart from other firms by taking a “holistic’’ approach to consider the individual. He compared the approach to the way an NFL team maintains assets such as a valuable player through everything from nutrition and condition to the best equipment and devices. These allow for better and faster decision making on the battlefield.

“I don’t know if there’s anything more valuable than the sons and daughters of our citizens,’’ he said.

Digital Soldier, Dillion said, has been initiated to give those sons and daughters their best chance at readiness, lethality, and survivability. Combining technology and making it work “synergistically’’ can produce a soldier who will be “unbeatable on the battlefield.’’

“We want to give them the best training and best equipment to get them home safely.”

Huntsville Business Journal Sitdown with Success: Bill Roark

Sitdown with Success is a feature of the Huntsville Business Journal spotlighting local entrepreneurs and their path to success and advice for future entrepreneurs.

It’s easy to see why employees on Torch’s campus, that is home to Torch Technologies and Freedom Real Estate and Capital, LLC, are so happy.

We sat down and spoke with Bill Roark, Torch’s co-founder and Freedom Real Estate’s CEO, and it was clear to see that employees are a top priority of the 100 percent employee-owned companies.

Bill Roark on his key to success: Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people. (Photo/Steve Babin)

And it is because of the employees and management’s vision and direction that Torch Technologies was one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, and on multiple selections on the Inc. 5000 list recognizing the Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S.

How did you get started in the business?

Torch Technologies was founded in 2002 and I stepped down as CEO from Torch at the end of 2018. Torch and Freedom are sister companies and under the umbrella of Starfish Holdings for which I am chairman of the board. Freedom Real Estate was started, mostly in the beginning to be an alternative investment for the profits Torch Technologies was making. It was a way to diversify a little bit and it’s been very successful.

What obstacles did you face/how did you overcome them?

Early challenges were cash flow.  The company grew very quickly and started to hire people.  We had to have cash to pay them.  We initially used my home equity line of credit, but as the company continued to grow, we took on some angel investors.  We were fortunate to get good investors who were supportive of the company and were not invasive into the operations.

How are you able to keep your business relevant?

We are constantly updating and changing things to respond to a changing market.  Every year assess exactly where the company is.  We also look at where we want to be two years from now.  We then develop a detailed plan to make the changes to make that happen.

To what do you attribute your success?

Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people.

Early on, I reached out to a lot of folks I had worked with in the past that I knew who were good and those people knew others who were good. We generally get people who fit our culture that want to be here; that want to be doing what we are doing. The people and the culture are really what have driven us.

One of the key things is that everyone has a stake in the outcome.

Everybody is an owner. If the company does well, then they do well. There’s motivation for them to have the company do well.

When the employees are the owners, they benefit from the success of the company.

What is important to your company culture?

Being good stewards of the community.

That has been with us since the early days. We try to always give something back to the community and grow that as we grow. Some of the big projects that the company will take on are decided on the executive level, but we have created a community within the company that decides how to spend the company money.

Any employee can volunteer and help with Torch Helps, the employees decide which community charities are selected.

Several years ago, we considered leaving south Huntsville, but the mayor encouraged us to stay and asked us to help revitalize South Huntsville, so we did. We started buying buildings such as the Freedom Center and Office Park south.

We have spent close to $20 million revitalizing old buildings in southeast Huntsville and bringing them back to a premium where people would want to be in them again.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Learn as much as you can about the business area you want to go into.

If you want to start a business in engineering, you will need to get a college degree, a few years of experience and get some customer relationships such that you have the influence to be able to bring the contracts to the company that you start and the experience to justify bringing in those contracts.

It’s important to build relationships with companies that can help you and with government personnel that would be willing to provide the funding.

Also, for decades, we had that belief that everyone needs to go to college to be able to do business. I don’t think that’s as true anymore. There are lots of good trades out there and there’s a shortage of people to work those skilled trade jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Kutta and Sierra Nevada Creating ‘Melting Technology Pot and Integration Model’

With the opening of its new facility, Kutta Technologies plans to implement what they and the Sierra Nevada Corp. call their first integration model here in Huntsville.

When Sierra Nevada acquired Kutta Technologies in 2015, Kutta was a small avionics consulting company that develops controller software for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the United States military.

As that demand grew, Sierra Nevada saw an opportunity to expand that expertise into its Integrated Missions Systems business in Huntsville. Now a wholly owned subsidiary of Sierra Nevada, Kutta has 65 employees and is growing.

Tim Owings, executive vice president of Integrated Missions Systems for Sierra Nevada. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

The new location at 4000 Market Street in the new Redstone Gateway, just steps outside Redstone Arsenal Gate 9, will help Kutta increase its presence and footprint on Redstone Arsenal.

“Sierra Nevada is a very innovative company with four business groups,” said Tim Owings, executive vice president of Integrated Missions Systems for Sierra Nevada. “Our space team is involved in the development of the Dreamchaser, so we are building our own spacecraft. In aviation we have our own surveillance aircraft; we have people here involved in electronic warfare; and we have people working in cyber.

“All those intersect here in Huntsville … a sort of melting technology pot and integration model for Sierra Nevada that we are all really excited about.”

For the past eight years, Kutta has shared space on Discovery Drive with Sierra Nevada. Owings said they have built great new friendships and great working relationships during that time.

“Kutta is on a roll right now and we owe that to Tim Owings and Sierra Nevada, who have made it possible,” said Matt Savoca, executive vice president of Kutta and one of the company’s founders. “UAS is one of our biggest customers and they along with our vendors are on Redstone Arsenal. Our software controls all of the small and large unmanned vehicles at Redstone and it has been a passion of ours to expand our unmanned aerial systems capabilities in Huntsville.

“We are excited and proud to be part of the Huntsville community.”

According to Owings, some more big announcements concerning Kutta and SNC are upcoming.

“Kutta is on a roll right now and we owe that to Tim Owing and Sierra Nevada” – Matt Savoca, executive vice president of Kutta. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“The next part of all this is – you have to win some work! Sometimes timing is everything, and last week we saw an announcement about two major programs we have been selected to win,” he said.

“One is a very large program hatched out of the United Kingdom that we will be doing work for out of this office; but more important locally is the EMARSS-E contract with L3 Technologies.”

The Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS-E) contract is an aircraft integration contract to develop up to two EMARSS prototype aircraft. Owings said the initial contract award is around $30 million.

“If we are going to build airplanes in our Huntsville hangar in Meridianville, we are also going to support them engineering-wise,” Owings said. “The program office for that will be run from Huntsville so that’s a big deal towards what we are trying to achieve here. However, there is a lot of aircraft follow-on from that contract that has the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars over time as we provide more of these platforms.”

Today, the Huntsville office is hosting Sierra Nevada’s quarterly technology meeting and, according to Owings, the entire senior leadership from SNC will be at the new Kutta office.

Savoca and Owings also gave a shout-out to the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce who presented them with a new membership plaque.

“The Chamber always does a fabulous job with these things and is supportive of everything we’ve done,” said Savoca. “The entire city and its culture have really embraced what we want to do, so ‘Thank You’.”

HudsonAlpha, CFD Research Partnership Aims to Find New Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

At the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, casual gatherings can lead to incredible research opportunities. Most recently at the Institute, a fortuitous encounter at a HudsonAlpha mixer led to a partnership that will search for new ways to treat pancreatic cancer.
HudsonAlpha Institute President Dr. Rick Myers and fellow faculty investigator Dr. Sara Cooper will work with CFD Research Principal Investigator AJ Singhal on a Small Business Innovative Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The group will work to find a more effective target for pancreatic cancer drugs, illustrating the power of HudsonAlpha’s unique approach to public-private collaboration.

An Idea over Drinks 

For this project, the collaboration between the Institute’s Cooper Lab and CFD Research started at Science on Tap, a monthly campus event sponsored by HudsonAlpha where people get together to talk research over pizza and beer. Singhal spoke at the event, and he told the crowd about strides he and his team were making in modeling and targeting proteins.

They just needed some ideas for new proteins to target.

After his talk, Singhal found Myers, who noted there might be an opportunity for Singhal’s group to work with researchers at HudsonAlpha.

“It was an incredible moment,” Singhal said. “You could just feel it all coming together. This collaboration will define our research into pancreatic cancer drugs, and one day, it might even lead to a new treatment. A better treatment.”

Myers put Singhal in contact with Cooper, and the partnership began in earnest.

Cooper’s Lab had a number of novel target proteins identified through its work. CFD Research had the tools to model those proteins and predict drugs that might target them.

A Search for Treatment

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the world. According to Johns Hopkins, more than 44,000 Americans will receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis this year; more than 38,000 Americans will die from the disease.

While pancreatic cancer is more treatable when found early, most cases are not found until far too late, leaving patients without curative treatment options.

“I study many kinds of cancer,” Cooper said. “Pancreatic cancer is particularly dangerous and cruel.”

The Cooper Lab previously discovered a number of genes were linked directly with patient survival in pancreatic cancer. One example from that study identified a gene that, if it becomes overactive, makes cells more resistant to drugs by limiting normal stress response that would trigger cell death. Other genes studied by the Cooper Lab control different aspects of the body, like how closely packed cells are or how cells metabolize drugs.

Through its nonprofit research work, the Cooper Lab generated a trove of data on genes and proteins related to patient survival for people with pancreatic cancer. The lab’s partnership with CFD Research allows them to use this knowledge for testing potential treatment options.

A Way Forward

Not only has the Cooper Lab developed a list of potential targets for pancreatic cancer treatment, they’ve also developed the means to test outcomes for those targets. In this case, Cooper and Singhal have honed in on a particular protein—the one that affects cellular stress response.

Using the three-dimensional structure of the protein determined by the team, they can predict which existing chemical compounds might be able to attach to it and render it non-functional. If the protein can be turned off, it could increase the effect of traditional cancer therapies.

“Partnering with outside experts is an important way to advance our non-profit research,” Cooper said. “We’re lucky at HudsonAlpha that we have highly specialized experts right here on campus with us.”

The first stage of the NIH grant will focus on finding potential drug molecules. For the collaboration, CFD Research will test a variety of molecules that could potentially inactivate the protein in question; the Cooper Lab will test those molecules to see if they work on pancreatic cancer cells.

“If everything goes the way we plan,” Cooper added, “We could walk away from this with a new drug.”

Von Braun Center Unveils LED Lighting System in Propst Arena

It was an event fit for a king.

Or, as in this case, fit for the reigning Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc.

In last Friday night’s home debut for the Havoc, the Von Braun Center unveiled its LED lighting system in the Propst Arena.

The upgraded lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

“Over time, the previous lighting system became less efficient with bulbs requiring frequent replacement, as well as producing a noticeable background noise during events,” said VBC Executive Director Steve Maples.  “Additionally, the previous fixtures were extremely limited in the special effects and production capabilities compared to newer, sophisticated lighting systems.”

The upgraded lighting system enhanced Friday’s hockey game with strobing light effects, and full-red lighting to coincide with the team’s colors.  The lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

The new LED lighting system brightens the arena, further enhancing the fans’ experience.

Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting manufactured the LED system that also features 12 new LED video panels manufactured by Daktronics.

The scope of the new lighting system included the installation of 86 fixtures with programmable color-changing capabilities.  The system is estimated to deliver an annual energy savings of $45,132, along with a reduction of approximately $8,923 in annual arena lighting maintenance costs.  The $340,000 lighting upgrade is being paid for through the VBC’s capital funding.

The system features full color-tuning fixtures to enhance events with colorful light shows and other lighting experiences.  With this upgrade, the options for a completely integrated lighting system for events is unlimited and will result in an enhanced fan experience, as well as improved viewing opportunities of both live and televised events.

The new lighting system activates instantly and takes less time to become fully operational as compared to the previous metal halide fixtures. Also, the programmable controls allow operators the ability to immediately change lighting schemes.

The new LED lighting system offers a wide range of adjustable color temperatures, and consistent lighting capabilities giving VBC staff and performers out-of-the-box opportunities for creating captivating visual moments.

Hypergiant, Dynetics Partner to Deliver Solutions for Space Ops Run on Amazon Web Services

Hypergiant, an AI products and solutions company, and Huntsville-based Dynetics, a high-technology solutions company, are partnering to deliver space mission solutions for customers using Amazon Web Services.

As Amazon Partner Network members, the Hypergiant and Dynetics teams are leveraging the AWS cloud in artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, Internet of Things, and AWS Ground Station to deliver mission and payload on-demand services. These services will support space ecosystem customers and also open up opportunities in the burgeoning space economy.

The companies plan to develop services supporting Hypergiant’s planned missions utilizing their Slingshot deployment system and NASA’s International Space Station infrastructure.

“Now that space-mission hardware costs are being reduced, our ability to get more data, more often, is rapidly increasing,” said Ben Lamm, founder and CEO of Texas-based Hypergiant. “People need a way to get that data more efficiently and to interpret it more effectively.

“That’s why we entered into this partnership with Dynetics: smarter, more cost-effective solutions for space data to all companies,”

Dynetics brings more than a decade of human spaceflight as well as satellite development, deployment, and deployment experience to the partnership. The aerospace and defense company also benefit from 45 years of experience in systems engineering, analytics, and hardware and software development.

“Demand for these solutions continues to increase from civil space, defense, and national intelligence agencies,” said Jonathan Pettus, Dynetics vice president of Strategic Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence and Information Technology. “Our rich experience with US DoD, NASA, and various commercial aerospace companies provides a unique value proposition with Hypergiant while also utilizing AWS to deliver flexible, cost-effective, and secure solutions in-line with the customers’ needs.”

According to the press release, the partnership can allow cost-savings to organizations that have requirements to operate in space and avoid using their own capital in mission and payload operations services. Companies will be able to focus on the core business purposes of their mission.

Hexagon/Intergraph Celebrates 50 Years of Innovative Software, Mapping and Computer Graphics

There were a lot of headlines in 1969.

The Beatles played their last public concert on the roof of Apple Records and 350,000 young people gathered at Woodstock to protest the Vietnam War.

Bob Thurber: “Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

But while Boeing was debuting its 747 “Jumbo Jet” to the American public, NASA engineers had landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon using the Apollo Guidance Computer. It’s laboriously handmade, read-only rope memory was equivalent to 72 KB of storage today.

Also in 1969, while millions of children watched the Utopian lifestyle of a space age cartoon called “The Jetsons” with its clunky robots and home automated conveyor belt, engineers were making it a reality, linking for the first time, several large-scale, general purpose computers into a network known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).

It was against this backdrop that IBM engineer James Meadlock, his wife Nancy, and three young engineers Bob Thurber, Terry Schansman and Keith Schonrock left their jobs at IBM on Feb. 10, 1969 to start M&S Computing on South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.

With the company that became known worldwide as Intergraph and now known as Hexagon, the now-retired Meadlock and his remaining team returned to the sprawling campus and world headquarters in what is now the new Town Madison, for a 50th anniversary celebration.

Hundreds of current and former employees and their families filled the three-level hexagon-shaped building with its towering glass windows and tiered mezzanine overlooking a private lake to hear Meadlock speak.

Intergraph co-founder James Meadlock left IBM in 1969 to help found M&S Computing, the forerunner to Intergraph. (Photo/Steve Babin)

According to Bob Thurber, co-founder and the original executive vice president of the company, IBM got the contract for the instrument unit on the Saturn launch vehicle because they had built the first digital computer on a missile.

“I came out of college with IBM in Huntsville, so when we finished with the Saturn program, we were the renowned experts on putting digital computers onboard missiles,” said Thurber. “We were able to leave IBM with our heads held high.”

Initially, Thurber said all the Army’s weapons systems needed computers on them, so M&S Computing became a consultant for them.

“One of the things we did in the IBM days was build an interactive graphics interface for the simulation of the Saturn launch vehicle,” he said. “You had to run simulations over and over and over again, but if something went wrong within the first 30 seconds of launch, you didn’t know it until you came in the next day. They needed a quicker interactive system to do it.

“That’s how we got started. By running simulations interactively, you could watch the trajectory on the screen and if it blew up or went off-course, you could just stop it, key in some different parameters, and run it again. You could do in a day what had been taking a month.”

That ability to visualize data led to their graphics mapping capabilities, and M&S Computing was the first company to do that as well.

“Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff,” Thurber said. “There were only four companies in the business when we got into it, but we essentially created the core graphics for AutoCAD.”

Thurber said they sold their first three systems around Christmas 1973: an engineering drafting system for 2D drafting to a company in Houston; a system for municipal mapping to the city of Nashville; and a system to the Army Missile Command (AMC). All three were totally separate industries, but they all needed the same basic graphic capabilities.

“We lost a lot of money when we sold Nashville the mapping system,” Thurber said. “The city said to us, ‘Look, we would love to use this stuff, but we don’t want to build all these maps!’ We said, ‘Okay. We’ll do it for you’.

“We charged them $80 per map. The cost was $500 per map, but it really it forced us to make it a good mapping system and it gave us the experience we wouldn’t have gotten had we held their hand while they did it.”

In the end, Nashville was the first city to map its roadways to understand traffic flow, congestion points, etc. all thanks to M&S Computing’s mapping capabilities.

The company then known as M&S Computing rented office space in Huntsville until the 1974 tornado destroyed the Bendix Building on Alabama 20 in Madison. Using insurance money, they were able to reconfigure it to M&S Computing’s requirements.

“The only eating place near our office back then was a Waffle House,” Thurber said with a laugh.

That would be the first of a sprawling campus with more than 4,000 employees, that is today located amidst the bustling new Town Madison development.

In 1981, M&S Computing went public and changed its name to Intergraph. After Meadlock and Thurber retired from the company, Stockholm-based Hexagon purchased Intergraph in 2010 for $2.125 billion.

Meadlock, who lost his beloved wife and business partner Nancy, is quietly retired.

Thurber is active with Huntsville’s tech incubator BizTech, but he says for a company that was the first to develop intelligent applications on top of graphics, the software and computing industry has now moved way past him.

“I still come over and visit and when I see the demos of the work Hexagon is doing now, fifty years later, the capabilities are so much more than graphics,” he said. “But they tell me that our software, M&S Computing’s software, is so integrated into their design and construction process, it cannot be unseated.”

Torch Technologies No. 8 on Entrepreneur 360 List

Torch Technologies has been recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur360 List.

Based on the study, Torch is recognized as a well-rounded company that has mastered a balance of impact, innovation, growth, leadership, and value.  The Huntsville-based company ranked eighth out of 360 organizations this year, up from 11 in 2018 and 16 in 2017. 

“We are proud to have again been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine for our distinctive approach to innovation, growth, leadership, and culture,” said Torch President and CEO John Watson. “Our continued success as a 100% employee-owned company is thanks our invaluable employee-owners.

“We are privileged to be part of a growing group of extraordinary people who are innovative and bright, and who make Torch a great place to work.”

 “Every entrepreneur knows that a healthy business isn’t just about growth. It’s about being well-rounded—growing your culture and your systems as strongly as you grow your revenue,” said Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine. “That’s why we’re excited to celebrate these companies with our fifth annual Entrepreneur360 ranking.

“The companies that make the list have pushed boundaries with their innovative ideas, fostered strong company cultures, impacted their communities for the better, strengthened their brand, and grown impressively as a result.”

Honorees were identified based on the results from a comprehensive study of independently- owned companies, using a proprietary algorithm and other advanced analytics. The algorithm was built on a balanced scorecard designed to measure five metrics reflecting major pillars of entrepreneurship—innovation, growth, leadership, impact, and business valuation.

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.