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UAB Engineering contract with NASA doubles to $50 million

Brandon Moseley

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A multi-year contract between NASA and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Engineering Innovation and Technology Development research group was doubled recently, giving the group a $50 million cap on work to provide and maintain cold-stowage units for the International Space Station.

EITD us a research group of nearly 40 engineers and technicians led by UAB School of Engineering professor Lee Moradi, Ph.D., EITD has played a key role in NASA ISS research for more than a decade. The group has designed and built a series of freezers capable of maintaining temperatures as low as negative 160 degrees Celsius. Each line of freezers meets specific cold-stowage demands, from storing scientific samples to serving as galley refrigerator/freezers for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).

On the ISS their use is monitored by EITD personnel from their Remote Operations Command Center on the UAB campus.

No specific reason was given for the increased contract amount, however the announcement comes at a time when EITD is expanding its involvement with NASA projects.

The group just received a five-year contract with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, and a $3.6 million project to develop two different rapid-freeze technologies for use on the ISS. The first rapid-freeze technology is near completion and is expected to be launched later this year. In 2017, EITD received a contract worth $6.2 million to design and build a new set of negative 80-degree Celsius freezers to support the increased needs for cold stowage on the ISS.

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“These contracts are evidence of the quality of personnel we have in our group,” Moradi said. “Our engineers and technicians have an impeccable reputation that has been built over decades, and we have been able to recruit extremely talented young engineers and software developers, including several top UAB students, both graduates and undergraduates.”

EITD is one of the nation’s leading developers in cold-stowage hardware for use in microgravity and exploration. Current cold stowage projects include the Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN), General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER), Polar and Iceberg.
The MERLIN units have been built at UAB since the early 2000s. MERLIN provide thermal control from negative 20 degrees to 48.5 degrees Celsius. They are used as incubators for scientific experiments as well as to support Crew Galley Operations.

The GLACIER is a cryogenic freezer/refrigerator system that provides a generic interface to accommodate multiple biological sample types and volumes that require thermal control between negative 160 degrees and 4 degrees Celsius while on the ISS.

Polar is the most recent of the cold-stowage units designed by the EITD with capabilities of maintaining temperatures as low as negative 80 degrees Celsius.

Iceberg is currently in development under a $6.2 million contract given in 2017 to design and build a new set of negative 80-degree Celsius freezers to support the increased need for cold stowage on the ISS.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center. UAB is also Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $7 billion on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development.

UAB is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Translational Science Award.
President Donald J. Trump’s 2019 budget calls for ending International Space Station funding in 2025. NASA has published an ISS Transition Report but it is not clear how that transition will occur. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the Washington Post that private companies may take over ISS operations.

Sam Scimemi, Director of NASA’s International Space Station Division, said, “Our intention is to be able to turn over day-to-day operations of the ISS to private industry by the middle of the next decade. Within that, there could be partnerships between companies that actually operate the ISS based on a particular business plan that they all have. As far as NASA’s direct plan, our plan is to turn over the day-to-day operations to private industry to be able to operate modules in space, to be able to do all the planning, training, real-time operations, sustainment, engineering. NASA could be just one of many customers for LEO.”

“Its budget is separated into operations, use or research and transportation.” Scimemi said. “The transportation is the largest part of the ISS budget. It is just over half of the budget. The budget this year was about $1.7 billion just for transportation, cargo and crew. The other part of it is operations and utilization.”

(Original reporting by the Washington Post and Space News contributed to this report.)

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Mo Brooks, Gary Palmer Win FreedomFighter Award

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were two of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks is a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide.
Only members of Congress who score better than 90 on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award.

Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top four percent of all Congressmen in 2017.

Rep. Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017.”

Congressman Palmer said, “I was honored to receive the Freedom Fighter Award this week from FreedomWorks.”

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FreedomWorks President, Adam Brandon, said, “The recipients of the FreedomFighter Award showed a commitment in 2017 to pro-growth economic policies and constitutionally limited government. We’re proud to recognize these senators and representatives. Our work is still cut out for us. Now that we have reduced some regulations and passed a historic tax reform bill, we must continue to pressure Congress to reduce spending to ensure that the prosperity we are seeing now is lasts into the future.”

FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Jason Pye, said, “The winners of the 2017 FreedomFighter Award deserve applause. These members take tough votes, often going against the leadership of their own party, because they want to do what is right by taxpayers. But consistency is key. America is staring down massive budget deficits as a result of the fiscal profligacy of this Congress. We have to continue working to put our country on a sustainable path, repeal ObamaCare, promote free trade, and continue to rollback the regulatory state.”

“If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great,” Brooks said. “I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

Congressman Mo Brooks represents the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama.

Both Brooks and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Both congressmen have Democratic general election opponents.

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House passes Byrne amendment protecting funding for Gulf States

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, July 19, 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a government funding bill for the Department of Interior and related agencies, which includes an amendment from Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, to protect a critical funding source for Gulf Coast states, including Alabama.

“For those that don’t know, GOMESA calls for a revenue sharing agreement between the federal government and four Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama,” Byrne said. “The program is designed to split up revenue from selected oil and gas lease sales in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.”

This year alone, the State of Alabama received $21 million under GOMESA. An additional $2.47 million went to Baldwin County and $2.88 million to Mobile County.

“The unique thing about GOMESA is it ensures appropriate funding for the coastal areas that provide the workforce, assume the environmental risk, build much of the infrastructure, and support the offshore oil and gas industry,” Byrne said. “It only makes sense that the coastal areas should receive an adequate share of the revenue.”

“Previously, there have been administrative efforts to direct the money away from the Gulf states and instead devote the resources to national projects,” Byrne continued. “While I appreciate the Trump Administration not including any such proposal in this year’s budget, I still believe it is important for Congress to send a clear, bipartisan message that we do not support moving GOMESA funds away from the Gulf Coast.”

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The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal maintained the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funding. GOMESA was passed by Congress in 2006. It set up revenue sharing for Gulf States for income generated by oil and gas leasing in certain offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, Gulf states whose coastal environments are impacted by oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines and navigation canals receive a fraction of the total federal revenue to help offset some of those impacts.
The amendment was adopted by a unanimous voice vote. The bill passed by a vote of 217 to 199.

The legislation now goes on to the Senate for its consideration.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

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Jones testifies before International Trade Commission on negative impact of newsprint tariffs

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) testified at a hearing held by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on the negative impacts recently imposed newsprint tariffs have had on Alabama’s newspapers.

Jones has advocated to stop to these tariffs, which are already hurting newspapers. In April, Jones wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for an end to the newsprint tariff. He has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to suspend the tariffs while the Commerce Department examines the impacts of the tariffs on the printing and publishing industry.

“This issue first came to my attention back in March, when Bo Bolton, publisher of the Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Alabama—home of Harper Lee—traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to meet with me and my team,” Sen. Jones testified. “Bo’s message was urgent and clear: newly implemented tariffs by the Department of Commerce threatened the livelihood of his small-town newspaper, and thousands of other small, community papers that serve as the lifeblood of their communities throughout this country.”

“I have had a regular stream of publishers visit with me sharing the exact same message, asking for any relief possible before they would have to start cutting their services and laying off what few staff they might have,” Jones continued. “The sources for domestically produced newsprint are quite scarce, requiring newspapers around the country to purchase their newsprint from Canadian suppliers. In other words, the domestic jobs that would be protected by these tariffs is relatively minuscule compared to the number of jobs in the United States that these tariffs threaten. But one domestic producer, NORPAC, which is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed a complaint with the Department of Commerce alleging Canadian newspaper suppliers were being subsidized by their government and thus able to sell below market value. As I understand is common practice, the Commerce Department levied preliminary tariffs of 6.53 percent in January. That jumped to an average of 22 percent in March, when the Canadian producer was found to be [selling] below the market price.”

“Here’s what I just don’t understand: why would this Administration levy these outrageous tariffs when our own newspaper publishers, logging industry, and paper suppliers do not support the decision?” Jones continued. It seems to me that the only thing being protected by this tariff is a small portion of a Wall Street hedge fund’s portfolio. It certainly isn’t protecting the 600,000 printing and publishing jobs across the country, including jobs at every newspaper in the state of Alabama.”

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“The Decatur Daily is facing an increase of $450,000 over their 2017 costs, and they’ve eliminated 11 full-time positions already,” Jones said. “Aside from payroll, newsprint is their single largest expense. You’ll hear that refrain from many small papers. Samuel Martin, publisher of the Birmingham Times in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote to me saying that they are, “hanging on by our fingertips already to survive and things like these tariffs will be the difference on surviving for so many.””

Most newspapers and journals are in the process of migrating to the internet. The Alabama Political Reporter does not have an old fashioned print version so uses no newsprint whatsoever.

“While some big-named media outlets have found their footing in the digital age, that’s not the case for everyone,” Jones said. “For many in small towns in Alabama and across the country, folks still like to get their news from actual newspapers. They still like to read a paper front to back. Hold it in hand. They cut the coupons. They read the local events calendar. They learn about what their local officials are doing or, in some cases, not doing. Frankly, there are still far too many places where Americans still struggle to get access to broadband. These folks don’t have the option to go online to get their news. The digital model just doesn’t work there, at least not yet.”

“These small newspapers cover local news that wouldn’t make it into larger regional papers if they were to shut their doors. Local businesses lose perhaps their only outlet in which to reach their customers,” Sen. Jones testified. “The biggest losers in this fight ultimately will be the residents that rely on local newspapers to stay informed. So when I say that these papers are the lifeblood of communities, it is not an exaggeration. It’s a fact. That’s why I have been so deeply concerned about this tariff. If it’s not rolled back, it will present and existential threat to local newspapers that are already strapped. “

“It is why I left duties on Capitol Hill this afternoon to come here today to urge you to reconsider this tariff,” Jones said. “Instead, consider the significant impact it has already had on these small American businesses. I hope you take to heart the urgent calls you are hearing today and make the right decision to eliminate these tariffs and to protect this industry and valuable the service that it provides to all of us.”

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Since March a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, making it difficult for cash-strapped newspapers to circulate their work. As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism.”

North Pacific Paper Company plans to hire 50 new full- and part-time employees, the company announced May 2. The company, owned by the New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, also announced the limited restart of operations for one of its paper machines, idled this past year.

The Longview, Washington-based company attributed the moves to “the U.S. uncoated groundwood papers industry starting to see a level playing field against unfairly traded imports.”

On May 2 North Pacific Paper Company (Norpac) which filed the trade complaint last fall has hired 50 more employees and is reopening a third machine at their Longview, Washington facility which they had shut down last year.

“After years of unfair, demoralizing market conditions and the associated difficult decisions that were required to survive, we have worked with our employees to test and create a system that can respond rapidly to the dynamic needs of the customers we serve. As more clarity regarding the impacts of competing on a level playing field become clear we will further improve our organizational capability,” said CEO Craig Anneberg in a news release.

Doug Jones was elected to the Senate in a special election on December 12.

(Original reporting by newsandtech.com contributed to this report.)

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UAB Engineering contract with NASA doubles to $50 million

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