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NASA moves closer to Space Launch System and a return to the moon

Brandon Moseley

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On July 16, 1969 a Saturn V rocket was launched that carried Apollo 11 into space and allowed for man to first walk on the moon. Neal Armstrong’s one ‘giant leap for mankind’ occurred 50 years ago next month, but it has been nearly 46 years since the last astronaut walked on moon. Americans under the age of 46 have no direct memory of moon missions outside of the history books and historical documentaries. NASA is determined to change that.

The Space Launch System, which is being designed and developed by engineers based at NASA’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, will be the launch vehicle that carries American astronauts out of Earth orbit, back to the moon, and beyond.

Thursday, the media is invited to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to view the agency’s new mobile launcher as it makes its final roll on crawler-transporter 2 to Launch Pad 39B prior to the launch of the first Artemis mission.

Over the next three months, the mobile launcher will undergo final testing at the pad to certify the systems for launch. Once testing is complete, the next time the mobile launcher makes its trek out to Launch Pad 39B, it will transport NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the launch of Artemis 1. This unmanned mission is part of the agency’s larger, sustainable Moon to Mars exploration approach.

Artemis is NASA’s program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, including the first woman to walk on the moon. When they land, our American astronauts will be the first humans ever before to visit the Moon’s South Pole.

NASA is working with U.S. companies, including some with a presence in North Alabama, as well as our international partners. NASA is vowing to push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon. As a result of Artemis, NASA will be able to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 to uncover new scientific discoveries and demonstrate new technological advancements, that will lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.

President Donald J. Trump (R) has renewed the nation’s focus on expanding humanity’s presence beyond planet Earth. Space Policy Directive-1 provides the direction for NASA to organize more effectively government, commercial and international efforts to develop a permanent presence off Earth that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic.

Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “The Trump Administration is implementing the policies related to space that our president stated we, as a nation, would accomplish. The United States is in the Space Race again.”

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NASA’s ultimate goal is to send humans to Mars, and NASA says that Artemis is the first step to begin this next era of exploration.

Jones said, “A few years ago, several members from the public and private sector attended a luncheon featuring Steve Cook, part of the President-elect Trump NASA Transition Team, Mr. Cook, a resident of Madison, Alabama, along with an elite group of space exploration-related professionals and academics, met from November 2016 through January 2017 and designed a strategic plan for the United States’ role in space.”

NASA is working on going quickly and sustainably with a reusable architecture as much as possible. NASA is going with our corporate and international partners to explore faster and explore more together. The moon project will be used to prove out the technologies that will take us to Mars and beyond.

The SLS will take NASA into space and Orion will take our astronauts to deep space to usher in a new era of space exploration. Orion will take us farther than anyone has gone before, and will dock with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will carry up to four crew members and is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours.

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is a lunar-orbit space station, which will serve as a solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots. The power and propulsion element is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft that is three times more powerful than current capabilities. As a mobile command and service module, the Gateway provides a communications relay for human and robotic expeditions to the lunar surface, starting at the Moon’s South Pole.

Both the distance and duration demand that Orion have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that the SLS can launch it.

NASA will launch Orion on the SLS, from a modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center. On the first integrated mission, known as Exploration Mission-1, an un-crewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks. A series of increasingly challenging missions with crew will follow including a test flight around the Moon before operational missions to the Gateway.

“President Trump and the leadership he has surrounded himself with believe that we [the United States] can marshal our resources properly and lead in space again,” Dr. Jones continued. “Part of that strategy includes public-private partnerships; federal resources (NASA) can focus on exploring the frontier, and the commercial sector can focus on supplying space.”

Thousands of Alabama workers at both Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA’s corporate partners with facilities in North Alabama are working on the Artemis project.

“The exploration of space is critical to national security and maintaining status as superpower,” Dr. Jones concluded. “And with 50 years of man on the moon upon us, we could not be at a better time in history to embark on this mission.”

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks releases road map for completing defense appropriations bill despite coronavirus crisis

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, on Wednesday released the House Armed Services Committee road map for completing the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“National defense is the #1 priority of the federal government. Despite the once-in-a-century COVID-19 pandemic, the House Armed Services Committee stands fully committed to passing the annual National Defense Authorization Act,” Brooks said. “The NDAA has passed Congress 59 consecutive years. I will work to ensure FY 2021 is no different. I thank Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry for their leadership and commitment to passing the FY21 NDAA in the face of COVID-19 challenges. While the process will be different, I am confident the final House Armed Services Committee product will be no less effective at securing America.”

Committee Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry’s attached the March 31, 2020 letter providing HASC’s plan to have the NDAA ready for committee debate by May 1st.

The letter was addressed to Members of the Committee on Armed Services, including Brooks.

“We want to update HASC members and staff on plans for our committee during the month of April, given the nationwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith and Thornberry wrote. “One challenge is deciding how to handle meetings of the committee and subcommittees since all such meetings for April will have to be held by conference call or video conference.”

“We must continue to exercise our oversight responsibilities and prepare to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) out of committee and off the House floor,” the letter continued. “Our goal is to have the bill ready to go by May 1st, and we will schedule the date of the mark up once the House schedule for the next few months becomes clear.”

“First, we want you all to understand that because of House rules we cannot hold public hearings or classified briefings in the formal sense like in normal circumstances,” they explained. “We will have to do what can best be called, informal events.”

“Public hearings are required to be open to the public,” the leaders of the HASC committee wrote. “They also require a quorum, involving the physical presence of members. Neither of these things are possible to achieve in conference calls or video conferences. Obviously, we also cannot have classified briefings over the phone or on video. There is no way to set up secure connections amongst the number of people that would have to be involved.”

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“Informal events, therefore, would take the form of the full committee or the subcommittees doing video or phone conferences and linking up the necessary members, staff, and witnesses,” the letter continued. “We have one such informal event, set for April 1st with Department of Defense officials to discuss their response to the pandemic. This will be a conference call.”

“We believe that future informal events like this for the month of April make sense, and welcome any suggestions from members on appropriate topics and witnesses,” Smith and Thornberry continued. “But, we hope members will keep in mind some of the responsibilities that will need to be balanced in deciding when to pull together such informal events. We face three significant limitations during the month of April when it comes to setting up these informal events. First, HASC staff and members, as they always are in the month leading up to finalizing full and subcommittee marks, are spending an enormous amount of time doing the work necessary to get the mark done. In fact, we did not plan on having a significant number of public hearings or briefings in April even before the shutdown happened due to this staff workload. Second, these are not normal times. As we’re sure all of you have been doing, we and the HASC staff and everyone at the Department have been fully engaged on managing the pandemic crisis. It is a complex problem and the Department plays a crucial role. We are all working countless angles to address the crisis and that crucial work must be given priority. Finally, efforts to prevent the spread of the virus among Department personnel and others will without question limit the ability of the Department and other witnesses to be available at times in the coming month.”

Smith and Thornberry wrote that these informal events are needed for to get the bill done, while exercising the necessary oversight of the Department.

The informal events are meant to substitute for normal public hearings and briefings and are not the only or even the main thing that the committee is doing.

Social distancing and the prohibition on meeting with more than ten present has made it difficult for Congress to fulfill many of its duties.

Congressman Mo Brooks is serving in his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks recently won the Republican primary. Since he has no Democratic opponent this means that Brooks has been effectively re-elected to his sixth term in Congress.

 

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Aerospace and Defense

Blue Origin opens rocket engine factory in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Blue Origin has opened its sprawling factory in Huntsville, Alabama’s “Rocket City.”

The massive new factory will allow the spaceflight company to accelerate the production of its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine. The move creates hundreds of jobs.

The BE-4, which is under development, will power both Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which is being produced at ULA’s factory in nearby Decatur.

Huntsville was an ideal location for the new factory, not only for its highly skilled workforce; but also for its proximity to ULA’s assembly pant and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where the new Alabama-built engine will be tested. Marshall’s historic test stand 4670 is where the Saturn V moon rocket’s engines were tested.

Blue Origin is upgrading and refurbishing the test stand.

“This community is absolutely terrific to be a part of,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said. “It has the kind of spirit that you want when developing this kind of technology and actually has the history that you can be feel proud about.”

“Enjoyed speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Blue Origin’s new rocket engine production facility in Cummings Research Park,” Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said. “This top-notch facility will be used to conduct production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. I joined Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several others this afternoon to discuss the impact Blue Origin is making in the Tennessee Valley!”

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Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield was at the ceremony making the opening of the spaceflight company’s rocket engine factory.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “In addition to the economic boost resulting from hundreds of new jobs in north Alabama, the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine production facility will allow the United States – the state of Alabama – to take astronauts once again into space without dependence on other nations. Methods of warfare have changed, and maintaining our dominance in the current space race is therefore a critical element in national security.”

Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin’s 350,000-square-foot facility is located in Cummings Research Park and will employ more than 300 people. Smith said that around 200 jobs should be created over the next year.

The factory was a $200 million investment in the state and announced on June 2017, with construction beginning in Huntsville a little over a year ago.

 

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Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of S.J.Res.68, a resolution which directs the removal of United States military from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. Jones has been criticized by Republicans for voting to limit President Donald J. Trump’s war powers on Iran.

“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. released a statement in response.

“Senator Jones once again turned his back on Alabama and voted as the leftwing Democrats commanded. He has no regard for the values, opinions or views of Alabamians,” Hooper said. “He sees us as deplorables just like the elites of the Democratic party who have funded 80 percent of his doomed campaign for re-election.:

Hooper stated, “I whole heartily support the President who stated ‘We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness… If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.’”

“The Commander-in-chief must be free to work with his staff and his military leaders to conduct covert operations like the one that eliminated Iran’s terrorist-in-chief General Soleimani,” Hooper added. “You can’t micromanage the war on terrorism. The Democrats in Congress are so filled with Trump Derangement Syndrome that no matter how much it would benefit our country and the world; they would never give Trump a “victory”. If it came down to it, they would leak everything to the media no matter what the consequences.”

Senator Jones is a cosponsor of the legislation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Eight moderate Republicans voted with the Democrats on the resolution.

Senator Jones has also been criticized by Republicans for his comments that he was “appalled” by Pres. Trump’s actions following his acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment.

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“Newsflash for Senator Doug Jones: Most Alabamians have been appalled by his actions his entire time in office,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “It’s about time we send Doug home, and replace him with someone who understands our values. Alabamians deserve a Senator they can be proud of again.”

Sessions is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Jones’ Senate seat.

The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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Brooks announces that Alabama rocket launches NASA Solar Orbiter

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced that an Alabama built Atlas V rocket has launched the Solar Orbiter.

“Big news! Last night, NASA’s Solar Orbiter was successfully launched atop United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket,” Rep. Brooks said. “The Atlas V is built at ULA’s Decatur manufacturing facility and last night’s launch was ULA’s 135th consecutive successful mission. This mission jumpstarted a decade-long expedition to study the sun that will deliver never-before-seen views of the sun and provide new information on space weather. Congratulations to NASA and ULA on a successful start to an important mission.”

The Solar Orbiter is a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun. It was launched at 10:03 p.m. CST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany have received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

In the first two days after launch, Solar Orbiter will deploy its instrument boom and several antennas that will communicate with Earth and gather scientific data. Solar Orbiter is on a unique trajectory that will allow its comprehensive set of instruments to provide humanity with the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. This trajectory includes 22 close approaches to the Sun, bringing the spacecraft within the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun and its influence on space.

“As humans, we have always been familiar with the importance of the Sun to life on Earth, observing it and investigating how it works in detail, but we have also long known it has the potential to disrupt everyday life should we be in the firing line of a powerful solar storm,” said ESA Science Director Günther Hasinger. “By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more about the hidden force responsible for the Sun’s changing behavior and its influence on our home planet than ever before.”

Solar Orbiter combines two main modes of study. In-situ instruments will measure the environment around the spacecraft, detecting such things as electric and magnetic fields and passing particles and waves. The remote-sensing instruments will image the Sun from afar, along with its atmosphere and its outflow of material, collecting data that will help scientists understand the Sun’s inner workings.

“Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “Together with our European partners, we’re entering a new era of heliophysics that will transform the study of the Sun and help make astronauts safer as they travel on Artemis program missions to the Moon.”

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Congressman Mo Brooks is serving in his Fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is an outspoken proponent of the space program. NASA and its contractors, including ULA, are major employers in North Alabama.

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