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United Launch Alliance selects Alabama-built BE-4 rocket engine for next-generation rocket

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Alabama Governor Ivey (R) welcomed the news that United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Ivey said the announcement will provide a major boost to Alabama’s aerospace industry and extend the state’s leadership position in rocketry.

ULA produces Atlas V and Delta IV rockets at a facility in Decatur. The Vulcan Centaur will also be assembled at the Alabama plant. Blue Origin was founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin announced in 2017 that it would open a new factory in Huntsville to manufacture the BE-4 once it landed a contract from ULA.

“I am pleased to learn that ULA has selected Blue Origin and new investments will be made in Alabama to expand our growing aerospace industry,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabama has a rich history in aerospace and titans of innovation continue to choose Alabama as the place to develop new technology and develop 21st century engines for future space utilization. I am excited about our new partnership with Blue Origin and their commitment to our state.”

“Blue Origin and ULA will now be building rockets together as part of a new partnership – which will create hundreds of jobs and bring an investment of $200 million to our state,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). “This is outstanding news. With Blue Origin’s first stage engine work in Huntsville, along with ULA’s manufacturing, assembly, and integration in Decatur, most of the Vulcan rocket will be made in Alabama. It is long past time that we build an exclusively American-made rocket, providing our nation with assured access to space.”

“This is a true testament to North Alabama’s world-class workforce and long history of supporting our nation’s space and defense,” added Sen. Shelby. “I am proud to represent a region that continues to attract such powerful companies. I welcome Blue Origin to Alabama and look forward to the groundbreaking of its new facility in Cummings Research Park.”

“Alabama has long been a leader in space technology assembly and continues to make great strides in contributing to this vital part of space exploration,” said U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama). “Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s contributions to the Vulcan Centaur Rocket System are a testament to Alabama’s highly skilled workforce and welcoming business environment. Although the contract for engine production was split, 100 percent of the production will take place in the Rocket City, where Alabama continues to support innovation in national security and space exploration. I look forward to watching this cutting-edge project take shape in our own Rocket City.”

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Colorado-based ULA said Thursday that it is making strong progress in the development of the Vulcan Centaur, which is on track for an initial test flight in mid-2020. The new rocket design is nearing completion, with booster preliminary design and critical design reviews already complete.

“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with Blue Origin and look forward to a successful first flight of our next-generation launch vehicle,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO.

Huntsville area economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Today United Launch Alliance (ULA) elected Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power the booster of the Vulcan Centaur rocket. Now that the company won the contract, Blue Origin will construct their facility announced in 2017 on approximately 46 acres in Cummings Research Park and bring hundreds of jobs to the area.”

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The new rocket’s booster will be powered by a pair of liquified natural gas (LNG) burning BE-4 engines, each producing 550,000 pounds of thrust. The company said that the Vulcan Centaur will have greater capabilities to lift payloads into orbit than any currently available single-core launch vehicle.

“The United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are teaming to make a next-generation rocket a reality, and it will have deep roots in Alabama’s aerospace industry,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said. “Located just a few miles from the ULA assembly facility in Decatur, Blue Origin’s rocket engine manufacturing facility will be right at home in Huntsville, a hub of innovation for this industry for decades.”

Cummings Research Park is the nation’s second largest research park. The $200 million project is expected to create up to 342 jobs.
Blue Origin said that it chose Huntsville because of its high-tech aerospace manufacturing workforce and ecosystem, including NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, nearly 300 private aerospace and defense contractors, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a top university for NASA research funding.

“Congratulations to United Launch Alliance and to Blue Origin,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “After a lengthy due diligence period by ULA, today’s announcement marks the beginning of U.S. independence for a variety space travel missions to include future deep space voyages. Huntsville is proud that both Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne will play a major role in ULA’s production of the Vulcan Centaur rocket. Huntsville led the U.S. propulsion revolution in the 60s, and we continue to do so with a thriving industry of rocket scientists and rocket producers. This is what we do better than anyone else in the world.”

ULA said that Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has a major presence in Huntsville, will provide RL10 engines for the Centaur upper stage. Northrop Grumman will build the solid rocket boosters.

ULA said the Vulcan Centaur will boost U.S. manufacturing by adding more than 22,000 direct and indirect American jobs in 46 states supported by ULA programs. The company has made modifications to the 1.6 million-square-foot facility in Decatur, which employs more than 600 workers and has produced large rockets since opening in 1999.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the future of ULA in Morgan County,” said Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association. “I’m proud of the fact that their next-generation Vulcan rocket is moving forward and will be built in our community.”

ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. The company has successfully delivered 130 satellites in to orbit. ULA is jointly owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

ULA has been using Russian built rocket engines. This contract will end America’s dependence on Russian rocket engines. The Blue Origin factory will manufacture up to 30 engines per year for both Decatur’s ULA plant and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. The average salary at the new factory will be $75,000 a year. Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent, Washington.

“The United States is in the space race again,” Nicole Jones said. “And what an appropriate and nostalgic time in history as we, in 2019, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of man on the moon. The presence of these global companies highlights their important role as our state leads the nation in the aerospace industry.”

With numerous new manufacturing and research job announcement, Huntsville is expected to be the largest city in Alabama within the next five years.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Trump to visit Pensacola tonight

Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention

Neither presidential candidate is likely to visit Alabama before the general election, as both campaigns accept that Alabama will be certainly in President Donald Trump’s camp on election day no matter what else happens. While Alabama is not a swing state, Georgia and Florida are both in play, and both campaigns are devoting enormous resources there.

Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy. Trump will be just across the Florida-Alabama state line visiting Pensacola and is scheduled to address supporters at the ST Engineering hangar beginning at 7 p.m. CT.

The doors open at 4 p.m. and the event begins at 7:00 p.m.

The president’s rally tonight comes right after a visit to Pensacola last week by Second Lady Karen Pence and is one of many Florida campaign events planned for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump arrived in Florida after Thursday’s final presidential debate with Joe Biden. He is scheduled to hold a campaign event in The Villages before traveling to Pensacola. The president will spend the night at his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago and will vote early Saturday.

The vice president will hold rallies in Lakeland and Tallahassee on Saturday. Florida has 27 electoral college votes. It would be very difficult for Trump to get the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win without winning Florida.

Democrats warn that attending a Trump rally could be dangerous due to the coronavirus threat.

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“The last thing Floridians need is for Donald Trump to host more potential superspreader rallies across our state,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement on the rally in Pensacola. “What we do need, however, is a president capable of putting Floridians ahead of his own self-interest and get this pandemic under control.”

Most recent polls have Trump trailing Biden in Florida. Tickets are required to attend the rally.

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National

Barry Moore: Trump is right when he says that Biden is “all talk and no action”

2nd Congressional District candidate Barry Moore praised Trump’s debate performance.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore (VIA MOORE CAMPAIGN)

The third presidential debate was held Thursday, and congressional candidate Barry Moore released a statement emphasizing that he continues to support President Donald Trump.

“This third debate showed us once again why Donald J. Trump is the better choice to lead this nation for four more years,” Moore said. “Joe Biden’s nearly five decades of being a politician make him an expert at dodging questions, giving non-answers, and twisting the facts to fit what he thinks is the response he needs to give right then. President Trump doesn’t respond like a politician, and he left Biden floundering. Biden truly is, as the President said, ‘all talk and no action’.”

“President Trump gave us three years of incredible economic growth after the Obama/Biden recession,” Moore continued. “He’s fought Chinese disinformation and domestic undermining throughout this pandemic and wants our economy to come back quickly. Biden wants to expand lockdowns, raise taxes, impose the economy-killing Green New Deal and throw us back into the same situation we endured for eight years under Obama/Biden.”

“Biden’s record—the real one instead of his tall tale of the minute—is one of little action and lots of failure,” Moore concluded. “Trump’s record is unprecedented economic growth and restoring America’s position in the world after Obama/Biden ‘lead from behind’ weakness. That’s why I will be voting for Donald J. Trump on November 3rd.”

Trump Victory Finance Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. agreed.

“President Trump was the clear winner,” Hooper said. “Bottom line, you have an outsider with results versus a failed 47-year career politician. I thought the President did well going beyond the base talking about what this Administration has done for Black Americans. This Administration passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, Opportunity Zones, increased funding for Historic Black Colleges and cutting Black unemployment.”

“Joe Biden hurt himself when he talked about his Energy Policy,” Hooper said. “He said he wanted to do away with the Oil and Gas Industry. Obama and Biden destroyed the coals Industry and now Biden wants to destroy the Oil and Gas Industry. What he said will hurt him in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma. Biden also talked about his government socialized economic policy. If that Policy is implemented, it would bankrupt America. The best statement made by the President, was when the President looked at Biden and said, You and Obama are the reason I ran.”

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The Trump campaign released a statement saying, “The President CRUSHED it.”

“After the Debate Commission CANCELED the second Presidential Debate last week, President Trump knew he needed to EXPOSE Joe Biden for the corrupt, China-loving SOCIALIST that he is,” the campaign continued. “The truth is, Biden would sell out America to the Chinese government and he’d DESTROY everything the President has accomplished. Tonight made that very clear. Unlike Sleepy Joe, President Trump will always fight for YOU.”

Moore is the Republican nominee in the Nov. 3 general election for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Moore served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018.

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He and his wife Heather own a small waste management business. He is a veteran, Auburn graduate, husband and father of four from Enterprise.

The general election will be Nov. 3.

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Courts

U.S. Supreme Court rules Alabama can ban curbside voting

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, allowed Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to ban curbside voting, staying a district court injunction that had allowed some counties to offer curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court’s majority in its order declined to write an opinion, but Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor’s five-page dissent is included.

The lawsuit — filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program — was brought on behalf of several older Alabamians with underlying medical conditions.

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Sotomayor, who wrote the dissent, closed using the words of one of the plaintiffs in the case. 

“Plaintiff Howard Porter Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s disease, told the District Court, ‘[So] many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – We’re past that time,’” Sotomayor wrote. 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. 

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“I am proud to report the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked a lower court’s order allowing the fraudulent practice of curbside voting in the State of Alabama,” Merrill said in a statement. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked diligently with local election officials in all 67 counties to offer safe and secure voting methods – including through the in-person and mail-in processes. I am glad the Supreme Court has recognized our actions to expand absentee voting, while also maintaining the safeguards put into place by the state Legislature.”

“The fact that we have already shattered voter participation records with the election still being 13 days away is proof that our current voting options are easy, efficient, and accessible for all of Alabama’s voters,” Merrill continued. “Tonight’s ruling in favor of election integrity and security is once again a win for the people of Alabama.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, expressed frustration after the ruling in a tweet.

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“Another devastating loss for voters and a blow for our team fighting to ensure safe voting for Black and disabled voters in Alabama. With no explanation, the SCOTUS allows Alabama to continue making it as hard as possible for COVID-vulnerable voters,” Ifill wrote.

Curbside voting is not explicitly banned by state law in Alabama, but Merrill has argued that because the practice is not addressed in the law, he believes it to be illegal. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 order ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

In his Sept. 30 ruling, Kallon wrote that “the plaintiffs have proved that their fears are justified” and the voting provisions challenged in the lawsuit “unduly burden the fundamental Constitutional rights of Alabama’s most vulnerable voters and violate federal laws designed to protect America’s most marginalized citizens.”

Caren Short, SPLC’s senior staff attorney, in a statement said the Supreme Court’s decision has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable Alabamians.

“Once again, the Supreme Court’s ‘shadow docket’ – where orders are issued without written explanation – has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable citizens amidst a once-in-a-century public health crisis. After a two-week trial, a federal judge allowed counties in Alabama to implement curbside voting so that high-risk voters could avoid crowded polling locations,” Short said. “Tonight’s order prevents Alabama counties from even making that decision for themselves. Already common in states across the South and the country before 2020, curbside voting is a practice now encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It should be a no-brainer to implement everywhere during a pandemic; the Alabama Secretary of State unfortunately disagrees, as does the Supreme Court of the United States.”

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National

Last presidential debate is tonight

The debate will be on from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020.

The last presidential debate between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican incumbent Donald Trump is scheduled for tonight.

The debate will be on from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN. It will also be streamed live on YouTube via CBS News and other services like C-SPAN. The debate will also be streamed via Twitter’s U.S. election hub in the “Explore” tab and on CBSN, CNNgo, the CBS News App and the Fox News App.

Game three of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays is Friday night so will not conflict with the presidential debate. There is, however, a football game tonight on Fox between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

The moderator will be NBC News’s Kristen Welker.

The topics for the second presidential debate have been announced by Welker. Welker has selected: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced.

The original plan was to hold three debates, but Trump, the first lady and many members of the president’s team tested positive for the coronavirus immediately following the first debate. Trump recovered from his bout with COVID-19, but when the Presidential Debates Commission announced that the second debate would be virtual, the Trump campaign refused to participate, leading to the cancelation of the original second debate.

“I am not going to do a virtual debate,” which Trump called a waste of time in comments to the Fox Business Channel.

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Trump and Biden held competing town hall events last week instead. Biden’s town hall drew higher TV ratings. The final presidential debate before Election Day will be at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate format will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on the six pre-selected topics.

There will be no interrupting by the candidates in this debate after the raucous behavior in the first debate.

Both Trump and Biden will have their microphones cut off in Thursday’s debate while their rival delivers their opening two-minute answer to each of the debate topics. The open discussion portion of the debate will not feature a mute button, but interruptions by either candidate will count toward their time.

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The nonpartisan commission announced the rule changes on Monday. As late as Wednesday night, the parties were still arguing whether Trump will be allowed to bring up allegations that Biden assisted his son, Hunter Biden, in the junior Biden’s business interests in China, Russia, the Ukraine and other countries. Many Republicans, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are urging the President to focus on the issues instead.

Election day will be on Nov. 3.

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