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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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Shelby discusses disaster assistance for the Wiregrass with Trump

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby said Thursday that President Donald Trump “agreed to help” with assistance for those affected by Hurricane Michael in Alabama’s Wiregrass region.

Shelby tweeted Thursday that he spoke with Trump about the need for assistance after Michael devastated portions of Southeast Alabama in early October.

“During my meeting with @POTUS, I brought up the need for disaster relief in the #Wiregrass following #HurricaneMichael,” Shelby tweeted. “President Trump agreed to help.”

While Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration last week for four affected counties, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Mobile, it only provides public assistance grants, which reimburse local governments and community organizations for certain expenses incurred because of the disaster but can’t be disbursed to individuals recovering from a disaster.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also not yet approved the state of Alabama’s application for an agricultural disaster declaration.

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The Alabama Emergency Management Agency has requested IA grants, and the agency has also provided additional evidence to demonstrate that certain Alabama counties qualify for the individual assistance.

Individual assistance, where it to be approved in the coming days by the Trump administration, would include financial assistance, direct aid and disaster loans. The assistance could be used for losses that were not covered by insurance, are of critical need and couldn’t be covered in other ways. It’s not intended to restore damaged property to its condition before the disaster, according to FEMA.

Most disaster assistance is provided in the form of loans administered by the Small Business Administration.

Shelby’s discussion with Trump comes after U.S. Sen. Doug Jones urged President Donald Trump last week to push for approval of the individual assistance grants for Alabamians impacted by Hurricane Michael. Jones also supported agriculture assistance in a separate letter to the Department of Agriculture.

Neighboring counties in Florida and Georgia have already received IA grants.

Hurricane Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States, causing more than $204 million in estimated agriculture losses and $307 million in estimated economic losses in Alabama, according to a report from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University.

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Jones co-sponsors bipartisan bill to address growing chronic wasting disease problem

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, joined Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, in introducing legislation to authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk.

CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk in 25 states. However, state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary. This bill would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.

“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Senator Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD.”

“Chronic wasting disease has negatively affected white-tailed and mule deer in Wyoming for decades,” said Senator Barrasso. “To protect our wildlife populations and our hunters, we need to know more about how this disease is spread and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”

“The deer and elk herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease are a critical part of Colorado’s wildlife heritage and economy,” said Senator Bennet. “We need to learn more about containing CWD, and this bipartisan legislation will provide the information state wildlife professionals need to align their work and prevent further spread.”

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Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) cosponsored the legislation.

The “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act” addresses the needs identified by state wildlife agencies. The bill requires the USDA secretary to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from the CWD Herd Certification Program and state agencies regarding: the pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission; the areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission; and gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps.

In October the second confirmed case of CWD positive deer was found in Mississippi. The most recent deer was in Pontotoc County. CWD is the most devastating disease facing the deer population today. Alabama has 1.75 million deer. Currently the state is CWD free; Mississippi was CWD free until this summer.

Mississippi Wildlife officials report that an emaciated 1.5-year-old, free-ranging male white-tailed deer was euthanized on October 8, 2018. The deer’s behavior appeared abnormal. The sample was confirmed CWD-positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, on October 30, 2018. This is the second case of CWD documented in Mississippi.
Alabama’s WFF has tested nearly 8,000 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD within Alabama.

As part of WFF’s CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan, WFF will increase its CWD surveillance sampling efforts beyond typical surveillance rates in those counties within the 50-mile radius of the Pontotoc County CWD-positive white-tailed deer. These counties include Franklin, Lamar, and Marion counties.

Additional samples for these counties including, but not limited to, voluntary samples from hunter-harvested deer as well as focused efforts on road kills and abnormally behaving deer.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Deer infected with CWD can become emaciated, lethargic, have abnormal behavior, and show gradual loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, and drooping head/ears.

Because it is a prion disease, contact with the spinal and brain tissue of a deer carcass can spread the disease to uninfected deer. To prevent the spread of the disease into Alabama it is now forbidden to import the complete carcasses from members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, caribou, etc.) from any other state and Canada.

The rules requires that hunters should completely debone the animal and remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides before returning to Alabama. Those skull plates must be free of any brain or spinal cord material. Velvet-covered antlers are also included in the prohibited materials. Root structures and other soft tissue should also be removed from all teeth. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.

Overhunting resulted in the near extinction of deer in Alabama by 1905, when there were less than 2,000 deer living in the state, until the state of Alabama and a collection of private landowners in south Alabama stepped in to protect the species. The wolf, bison, elk, cougar, passenger pigeon were all wiped out in Alabama by overhunting. From those humble beginnings, the Alabama Conservation Department, restocked the rest of the state, with most of the restocking done in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gun season for deer in Alabama begins on Saturday and continues until February 10.

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McCarthy defeats Jordan for GOP Minority Leader

Brandon Moseley

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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy & House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer interviewed on the stage at AIPAC. (Lorie Shaull)

The U.S. House Republican Caucus voted Wednesday 159 to 43 to elect U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) as their new minority leader for the next Congress. House Republicans prepare for life as the minority party for the first time in eight years.

McCarthy was the majority leader for the past four years. He easily defeated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan co-founded of the conservative Freedom Caucus. The vote occurred during a closed-door, secret-ballot election in the Ways and Means Committee room.

The vote was 159 to 43. While it takes 218 votes to become Speaker of the House, McCarthy only needed a simple majority of votes from his GOP colleagues to become minority leader.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) did not seek another term to his House seat.

“We have a new role and a new mission in the House, and this group is well-equipped to meet the challenge,” Speaker Ryan said. “I know they will defend the significant policy achievements of the last two years, find areas of common ground where possible, and draw a stark contrast with the new liberal majority. This team has the experience, skill, and steadiness to guide us back to the majority, and I congratulate them all on their new positions. In particular, it gives me great confidence as I depart knowing this conference is in good hands with my friend Kevin McCarthy at the top. Bright days are ahead for this team.”

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Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) was elected Chair of Policy for the House Republican Caucus.  Prior to his election to Congress, Palmer was cofounder and President of the Alabama Policy Institute (API).

Last week’s “blue wave” election meant that 37 House seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

This means Democrats will pick the next Speaker of the House, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and will pick the chairs of all the House committees. They also have the votes to pass Democratic legislation to the Senate, including the impeachment of President Donald Trump (R).
Congressman Bradley Byrne predicted that it would be “crazy season” in the House.

“Crazy is just one way to put it,” Byrne said on social media. “The Democrat agenda will attempt to undermine the President and all that we have accomplished. I will continue to focus on issues that actually matter like rebuilding our military, growing our economy, and securing our borders.”

McCarthy addressed reporters in a news conference following the vote, vowing to retake control of the House in 2020.

“I know they want to abolish ICE. I know they want to impeach the president,” McCarthy said. “I just don’t think that’s the agenda Americans want.”

While Republicans controlled the House of Representatives for 8 years, they only controlled the U.S. Senate for four years, and Donald J. Trump has only been President for the last two. Despite controlling both Congress and the White House efforts to repeal Obamacare stalled in the Senate; President Trump’s promised border wall never went anywhere in Congress, and the GOP House Caucus was hopelessly divided on how to proceed with immigration reform. The rules of the Senate and the narrow Senate majority meant that many pieces of legislation that passed the more conservative Republican controlled House of Representatives died in the Senate. Trump was not the first choice of many members of the Congress and there was often friction between the House and the White House. Dissatisfaction with Trump, particularly in suburban America, was a factor in last week’s many GOP losses.

Despite the “blue wave” election nationally, all of Alabama’s congressional delegation were easily re-elected to additional terms. Robert Aderholt is Alabama’s longest serving member of the Alabama congressional delegation, having just been re-elected to his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

The GOP leadership team for the 116th Congress:
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY)
NRCC Chair Tom Emmer (R-MN)
Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)
Conference Vice Chair Mark Walker (R-NC)
Conference Secretary Jason Smith (R-MO)

(Original reporting by Fox News, Politico, and the Yellowhammer News contributed to this report.)

 

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Palmer elected to 116th Congress’s GOP leadership team

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the Republican Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives elected Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) to the position of Republican Policy Committee Chair for the 116th Congress.

“I appreciate the faith that my colleagues have placed in me and am grateful for their support,” Rep. Palmer said. “Throughout my career, I have focused on being a problem solver and developing and promoting sound policies, so I feel like I’m uniquely prepared for this role. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we continue advancing and promoting ideas supported by the American people.”

Congressman Palmer will serve in the GOP’s leadership team, which includes: Representative Kevin McCarthy (California) was elected as the GOP Minority Leader easily defeating Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (Ohio). Representative Steve Scalise (Louisiana) will return as the Minority Whip. Representative Liz Cheney (Wyoming) will serve as Conference Committee Chair. Representative Mark Walker (North Carolina) will serve as Conference Committee Vice Chair. Representative Jason Smith (Missouri) was elected as Conference Committee Secretary; and Representative Tom Emmer (Minnesota) was elected as the National Republican Campaign Committee Chair.

Gary Palmer was born in Hackleburg. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama. After working for engineering firms, Palmer cofounded the conservative Alabama Policy Institute (API) where he served as President for many years, before running to represent the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama when then incumbent Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia) retired.  Palmer is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

A week ago Palmer easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Danner Kline, 69.26 percent to 30.74 percent to win his third term in the United States House of Representatives.

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The Republican Party suffered a crushing defeat in House midterms, losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years of control. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) appears to be the consensus choice of Democrats to be the Speaker of the House. Pelosi previously was Speaker from 2007 to 2011.

The Sixth Congressional District of Alabama includes all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, Coosa, and Chilton Counties.

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UAB Engineering contract with NASA doubles to $50 million

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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