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Blue Origin Mission Demonstrates Crew Capsule Upgrades

It was a picture-perfect launch and landing Thursday for Blue Origin’s New Shepard program.

The NS-14 booster touches down at the landing pad about two miles from where it lifted off at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas. (Blue Origin Photo)

Named after astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, New Shepard is Blue Origin’s fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle.

New Shepard is designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line (100 km), the internationally recognized boundary of space, returning them to Earth with minimal refurbishment required between flights. Thursday’s flight was the 14th mission to space and back for the New Shepard program. 

The rocket engine company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a $200 million, 350,000 square-foot plant in Cummings Research Park. The plant will make the company’s reusable BE-4 and BE-3U engines for the New Glenn program.

Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single-configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar, and beyond.

The engines will be tested at Test Stand 4670, the historic site at Marshall Space Flight for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engine. Blue Origin has begun refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history, bringing the sound of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville. 

Mission NS-14 featured a crew capsule outfitted with astronaut experience upgrades for upcoming flights with passengers onboard. There were no passengers on Thursday’s flight.

Among the upgrades in the six-passenger capsule are speakers in the cabin with a microphone and a push-to-talk button at each seat so astronauts can continuously talk to Mission Control; an alert system with a panel at each seat relaying safety messages to passengers; and cushioned wall linings and sound suppression devices to reduce ambient noise inside the capsule.  

The NS-14 crew capsule descends to the West Texas desert after Thursday’s mission. (Blue Origin Photo)

Blue Origin said the flight continued to prove the robustness and stability of the New Shepard system and the BE-3PM liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine. 

The New Shepard vehicle has completed 14 successful consecutive launches, 13 consecutive successful booster landings, three successful escape tests (from the pad, mid-flight at Max Q, and in the vacuum of space), and 15 consecutive successful crew capsule landings, including a pad escape. One of New Shepard’s boosters has flown five times consecutively; the other has flown a record seven times consecutively, both with minimal refurbishment between flights.

 Key Mission Stats 

      • 15th consecutive successful crew capsule landing (every flight in program, including pad escape test in 2012). 
      • The crew capsule reached an apogee of 347,568 feet. 
      • The booster reached an apogee of 347,211 feet.
      • The mission elapsed time was 10 minutes, 10 seconds and the maximum ascent velocity was 2,242 mph.

Dynetics Achieves Critical NASA Milestone

Dynetics has submitted its proposal for Option A of the Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis Program. The team has also completed the HLS Continuation Review, a critical milestone during the 10-month base period, which NASA will use to assess progress on HLS hardware development and program plans.

The Huntsville company is performing main engine tests at its propulsion test site in Huntsville and at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has also conducted tests of its smaller reaction control system engines at its own facilities.

Dynetics is using a low-fidelity hardware simulator and has added a software simulator provided by Draper Laboratory. The new simulator component enables early human testing of the Dynetics HLS guidance, navigation, and control software.

“Our team is making great progress on our system design and analysis, hardware development, and testing. The incredible volume of technical data and outstanding products delivered to date speak to the power of the swift, yet rigorous, engineering approach with which the team has executed,” said Kim Doering, vice president of space systems at Dynetics. “We believe this body of work lays a solid foundation for our crew-centric, sustainable solution to become NASA’s choice for safe human transportation to and from the lunar surface.”

Members of the team are Sierra Nevada, Oceaneering, Paragon Space Development and Maxar Technologies. The team will continue with the subsystem- and system-level design reviews and critical technology demonstrations as it awaits NASA’s Option A selection decision early this year.

Built for Business and Baseball: New Avid Hotel at Town Madison Open

MADISON — It is sure to be a home run for business travelers and baseball fans – the new Avid Hotel at Town Madison has the perfect setup for both, at the Madison/Wall-Triana Highway exit of I-565. It is a just a throw across the infield from Huntsville International Airport, Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park.

A fitness center is among the amenities provided at the Avid.

For the business traveler, there are 55-inch HDTVs with free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, free breakfast with fresh-ground coffee, high-quality mattresses and black-out roller shades to promote a sound sleep. 

The Avid includes a 24-hour “market.”

For the baseball fan, it is just a throw from the outfield of Toyota Field, home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. There are outdoor patios and a 24-hour market for after-the-game munchies and a mini-refrigerator in every room.

According to Pritesh Patel, one of the owners of Jalasai Hospitality Co., the 87-room Avid by Intercontinental Hotels Group is a boutique-style hotel that promises a spotless hotel environment that is always ready for its next guests.

Double beds await the traveler for a restful sleep.

“This Avid hotel is the perfect fit for this location and community,” said Patel. “Whether you are a business traveler or visiting for a game at Toyota Field, in town for business or pleasure, you will find that we focus on getting the essentials right. The Avid hotel will provide the comfort, modern design and high standard of quality service to exceed your expectations.” 

The Town Madison hotel is the 21st Avid hotel and is a short hop from more than 1 million square feet of new retail, restaurant, and entertainment venues including Duluth Trading Co., J Alexander’s Restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, and 700,000 square feet of office space. 

Stellar Group Named to Advisory Board for Drake State Space Construction Research Program

A nine-member advisory board has been named to oversee Drake State Community  & Technical College’s new Frontiers Research Program.

The Frontiers Research  Program was established after Drake State was selected by NASA’s Marshall Space  Flight Center as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies to support the Artemis  mission

The Frontiers Advisory Board, made up of technical experts, NASA officials and  community leaders will provide guidance to the research team throughout the year long project. 

“NASA is calling on us to help develop construction techniques suitable for use on the  moon,” said Dr. Pat Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College. “Our advisory board has the expertise to help guide our efforts as we complete this  significant work.” 

In addition to the advisory board, the Frontiers Research team will be supported by  representatives from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and ICON, a construction technologies company leading the 3D space construction research efforts for NASA. 

Drake State is the first community college and only Historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s CAN opportunity since its inception in 2013.

The Frontiers Research Program team – which consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s Engineering Design program  – will test 3D-printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

Frontiers Research Program Advisory Board Members 

Joe Fitzgerald – Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama 

Jeff Haars – Vice President and Deputy Program Manager, Jacobs Space Exploration

Laura Hall – State Representative (D) District 19 

Larry Lewis – Cofounder and President, PROJECTTXYZ, Inc. 

John Mankins – President, Artemis Innovation Management Systems 

John Meredith – President Pro Tem, District 5, Huntsville City Council 

Raymond Pierce – President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation 

Ritchie Whorton – State Representative (R) District 22 

Lisa Williams – Cofounder and President, 3D Research Corp.

Evan Jensen – ICON

Jason Ford – ICON

Dmitri Julius – ICON

Drake State to Partner with Marshall Space Fight Center in Historic Agreement

Drake State Community & Technical College is shooting for the Moon and has set a historic precedent on the way.

Marshall Space Flight Center selected Drake State as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade and for future human missions to Mars. 

With the selection, Drake State becomes the first community college and only Historically Black Community College to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s Cooperative Agreement Notice program since its inception in 2013.

“Being Huntsville’s community college, we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State Community & Technical College. “We’ve  been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research  project is truly exciting.”

Drake State submitted a proposal to Marshall’s seventh competitive CAN for Dual-Use Technology Development solicitation. The award will fund collaborative research in support of NASA’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction  Technologies project. This project aims to develop, deliver, and demonstrate capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials. 

The research team consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s  Engineering Design program. It will test 3D printed concrete structures to help develop  construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

The one-year research project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and  Education Project. The research team will collaborate with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Austin, Texas. ICON is working with NASA on early research  and development of a space-based construction system that could support exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and  non-destructive testing, and collect and analyze data on the material that ICON produces,” said Robert Grissim, Director of Workforce Development at Drake State Community & Technical  College and Principle Investigator. 

Additionally, instructors in the Engineering Design program will develop curriculum related to the research project and add the specialty classes to the College’s course catalog. 

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, Dean of Instruction at Drake State Community &  Technical College. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.” 

 

Moog Expands Huntsville Footprint with Regional Support Center

Another innovative technology company is expanding its presence in Huntsville. 

Moog – the name rhymes with vogue – has opened a regional support center at 360F Quality Circle in Cummings Research Park West.

The company cites the proximity to Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center as key to its long-term growth strategy to better support its aerospace, defense, and industrial customers. 

Martin Bobak, Moog’s vice president defense sustainment, said, “The Regional Support Center will also support growing defense sustainment activities in support of the warfighter.”

The New York-based company specializes in the design and manufacture of advanced motion control products for aerospace, defense, industrial and medical applications. 

The new facility consists of a large laboratory to support local research, development, and testing activities. It also offers abundant office space and essential collaboration space.

Huntsville native Mary Occhipinti takes on the role of Moog’s Huntsville operations’ site manager. She has supported a variety of Moog business groups for more than a decade.

“Huntsville is recognized as a thriving metropolitan area for both business and living,” she said. “With this opening, we have already doubled our local presence and plan to add additional technical positions in the days ahead.” 

For job opportunities, visit www.moog.com/careers.

Moog held a “soft opening” in late August but plans a more formal grand opening based on COVID-19 regulations.

Teledyne Brown Completes Major Hardware for NASA’s Artemis Rocket

One of the largest pieces of hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System left Marshall Space Flight Center recently to begin its voyage to Kennedy Space Center in the coming weeks.

Teledyne Brown Engineering, the prime contractor on the project with several small business partners, designed and built the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter. LVSA provides the fundamental structural strength required to withstand the launch loads and the maximum dynamic pressure.

It also provides the critical separation system used to separate the core stage of the rocket from the second stage, which includes the astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle. The cone-shaped adapter is roughly 30 feet in diameter by 30 feet tall and consists of 16 aluminum-lithium alloy panels.

“LVSA is not only a significant achievement for our company, but it is monumental for Marshall Space Flight Center and the Huntsville Community,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering.  “It’s the largest hardware to be completed for the SLS in Huntsville.

“Our company was an integral part of the country’s first rocket programs with Werner Von Braun, and we continue our legacy and support of space programs with this successful hardware completion for the latest Space Launch System.”

LVSA will be moved by barge to Kennedy Space Center where it will join the rocket’s Core Stage to the ICPS and Upper Stage.  It will be incorporated into the final configuration of the SLS for the first Artemis lunar mission.

The SLS is the only rocket able to send the Orion capsule, cargo and astronauts to the Moon in a combined mission.

The Artemis Mission, including this hardware, will be a part of the first moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Teledyne is building an LVSA for the second Artemis lunar mission and starting work on the LVSA for the Artemis III mission, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.

With $915M Contract Extension, Boeing to Support International Space Station Through 2024

Boeing, NASA’s lead industry partner for the International Space Station (ISS) since 1993, will continue supporting the orbiting laboratory through 2024 under a $915 million contract extension.

This award comes as the world marks 20 years of constant human habitation on the ISS — a record no other crewed spacecraft has come close to achieving.

“As the International Space Station marks its 20th year of human habitation, Boeing continues to enhance the utility and livability of the orbiting lab we built for NASA decades ago,” said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and program manager for the International Space Station. “We thank NASA for their confidence in our team and the opportunity to support the agency’s vital work in spaceflight and deep-space exploration for the benefit of all humankind.”

Boeing employees in Huntsville work closely with NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and advanced studies, providing technology advancements, including engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS.

An international crew of six astronauts work and live on the ISS while traveling at the speed of 5 miles per second, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes. More than 240 people from 19 countries have visited the ISS and conducted almost 3,000 experiments onboard.

Boeing in Huntsville supports additional NASA programs including the Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket, and Starliner commercial crew capsule.

Middleburg Communities Breaks Ground on 290-Unit Apartment Community in Cummings Research Park

Middleburg Communities has broken ground on Mosby Bridge Street, a 290-unit apartment development in Cummings Research Park. Construction on the community at 320 Voyager Way is expected to be completed April 2022 with leasing starting in May 2021.

“Mosby Bridge Street is another excellent example of utilizing our extensive research capabilities to identify prime locations surrounded by significant population and employment growth,” said Chris Finlay, Managing Partner of Middleburg Communities.  “By executing through our fully integrated team of development, construction, property management, and investment management, we are able to deliver better value to our residents and increased returns to our investment partners.”

Once completed, the property will be self-managed by Middleburg Communities, a Virginia-based real estate investment, development, construction and management firm.

“Middleburg is very excited to start this transformative development in what has become the fastest growing tech city in the U.S. and within Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the country,” said Middleburg Communities Vice President of Development Alexi Papapieris. “Mosby Bridge Street is our first investment in the Huntsville area and this property exceeded our most exacting standards, demonstrating strong job and population growth, a highly educated STEM workforce, new major employment hubs underway and immediate access to amenities, recreation and transportation corridors.”

Mosby Bridge Street will offer residents one-, two- and three-bedroom luxury apartments in four, four-story, elevator-served buildings with controlled access, conditioned corridors.

The development will feature Middleburg Communities’ Local Heroes program, which honors firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and public school teachers by providing them with a rent discount for a select number of units.

Residents will be walking distance from the Bridge Street Town Centre and the community is enveloped by Cummings Research Park, home to a hub of science, technology, tech, space and defense companies, business incubators and higher education institutions.

The 3,800-acre CRP is home to nearly 300 companies in total and more than 30,000 employees and students. This is in addition to another 36,000 jobs at nearby Redstone Arsenal, which includes multiple Army commands, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the FBI’s new $1 billion campus focused on cybersecurity.

2019 ‘Banner Year’ for Huntsville/Madison County Tourism

The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has been given quite a reason to celebrate.

According to the 2019 economic impact report recently released by the Alabama Tourism Department, the Huntsville and Madison County area achieved the state’s highest percentage increase in travel and tourism revenue over the past year, reaching $1.62 billion in sales.

The area also secured the number two spot in county visitation rankings, bringing in roughly 3.7 million visitors and leap-frogging fellow Alabama tourism hot spots Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery.

2019 saw the economic impact of travel and tourism to Madison County reaching its highest levels ever, providing nearly 19,000 jobs, and saving residents roughly $925 in taxes as a result of travel expenditures.

These figures represent a 15.2 percent increase in traveler spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.

In addition to the explosive growth the city has seen over the past year, the CVB attributed much of the 2019 increase to the successful efforts of partners such as the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission in promoting two key events for Huntsville – the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the Alabama bicentennial. Celebrations around these anniversaries were major tourism drivers for the area.

“2019 was truly a banner year for the Rocket City,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the CVB. “Not only did Huntsville continue to see growth in our hotel, dining, and entertainment options, but so many of our community partners rallied together to offer top-caliber events and programming around two nationally significant events – the Apollo 11 50th anniversary and our state bicentennial.

“It’s not every year that we get to enjoy such a global spotlight on our city. We worked hard and leveraged that attention to the best of our abilities, and it’s wonderful to see the return on those efforts.”