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21st Century Moon lander team will be headquartered at Marshall Space Flight Center

Brandon Moseley

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NASA announced Friday that the space agency’s U.S Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville will act as the headquarters for the Human Landing System Program.

NASA made the announcement in Huntsville on Friday, in the shadow of the Space Launch System rocket test stand at Marshall. Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for the announcement that Marshall will lead the design and development of the Artemis program lunar lander. This vehicle will transport astronauts from the Moon-orbiting Gateway space station to the Moon’s surface. Brooks and Bridenstine were joined by Congressmen Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and Scott DesJarlais, R-Tennessee.

“Decades ago, there was a national infrastructure program that was going to be built somewhere and our community lost. The wind tunnel ended up in Tullahoma, Tennessee,” Brooks said. “We came in second and the second-place prize was a bunch of German rocket scientists. Gosh, have we made the best of that losing proposition in our community? Those German rocket scientists in the early 60s at the instance of John F. Kennedy and the mission to the Moon that he was able to get underway, put us in a position where we were able to do as a nation something no other nation had done.”

“Today is a great day for the Tennessee Valley and the Marshall Space flight center,” Brooks said. “It is a great day in large part because of another political decision akin to John F. Kennedy’s in the 1960s. We have decided that we as a country are going to do something that only one other country in history has done and that other country was us, and we did it a half century ago. No other country has been able to do it in 50 years what we were able to accomplish in the 1960s and that is to go back to the Moon and put a facility on the South Pole, have a space station that is able to revolve around the Moon in lunar orbit and send astronauts to rendezvous with that space station as a place to stop before going to the Moon, landing on the Moon, doing the research that we are going to do on the Moon, getting back on that space station and then heading back to Earth.”

“That is an incredible achievement that we seek on behalf of our country and I am thankful that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recognized the talent that we have here in the Tennessee Valley and the Marshall Space Flight Center, particularly the intellectual talent,” Brooks added. “Many of you may not know this, but we have the highest concentration of engineers in the United States of America. We have scientists, we have physicists, we have mathematicians, we have what we had in the 1960s, and that is the brainpower to take on this mission and to get it done. So, Jim, thank you so much for recognizing our community and what we have to offer for the United States of America in this endeavor.”

“The United States is in the space race again,” said economic developer Nicole Jones. “And the Trump administration is implementing policies related to space that our president stated we, as a nation, would accomplish.”

“We are talking about, in the first year, roughly $1.6 billion to make sure that we are on track to return to the moon by 2024,” Brooks explained. “Over that five-year period we are looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to $30 billion, and let me emphasize that has to be over and above what we are already spending on the science that NASA does, not only for our country, but also for the planet. That is a significant commitment, and I hope that Congress will be in a position to recognize the value, the advancements, that we are undoubtedly going to have, as we have had over the last 60 years for everything that NASA has done for us.”

“The project that is being announced today, that Jim Bridenstine has selected for our community, is roughly 360 jobs, roughly 140 that will be at Marshall Space Flight Center, with your other 220 spread out, as it should be, amongst various other NASA centers throughout the United States of America,” Brooks said. “For emphasis, each of those centers offer something to this mission and I thank them for the involvement that they are going to have, but I also thank NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for selecting our community for taking the lead role.”

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“Marshall’s Lisa Watson-Morgan was recently named the program manager for the agency’s Human Landing Systems, and in this role, she will keep us on track toward meeting the challenge to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024,” Bridenstine said.

Marshall’s Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan is a Huntsville native and Butler High School graduate. She is a 30-year NASA veteran engineer.

“Alabama welcomes this incredible news,” Gov. Kay Ivey said on social media. “You couldn’t have chosen a more qualified & deserving site to lead this mission than the birthplace of America’s space program — @NASA_Marshall. Alabamians stand ready to once again lead our nation into the next space frontier.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, welcomed the announcement.

“Once again, Alabama has found itself leading the charge in aerospace technology,” Byrne said. “With today’s news, Huntsville and their outstanding workforce will be at the forefront of taking man back to the moon.”

Byrne is a candidate for US Senate and the Congressman from Alabama’s First Congressional District.

“Recall that in March 2017, dozens of us from the public and private sector attended a luncheon featuring Steve Cook, a member of the President-elect Trump NASA Transition Team,” Dr. Jones said. “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.”

“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,” 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. That is exactly the structure the federal government implemented with Artemis. The goal of NASA’s Artemis program is to land Americans on the Moon by 2024 and establish a permanent American exploration base on the Moon. Several thousand employees from Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and various north Alabama-based corporate partners are working on the Artemis project.”

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

NASA’s Artemis program goal is to land Americans on the moon by 2024 and establish a permanent American moon exploration. Artemis will be launched into space by the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built. Its design team is also headquartered at Marshall.

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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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Aerospace and Defense

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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Aerospace and Defense

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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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks votes for NASA Authorization Act

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) voted in favor of the Space Subcommittee passage of H.R. 5666, the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2020.”

The act includes an amendment authored by Brooks to ensure competition and flexibility for NASA’s choosing an integrated crewed Mars landing/assent system design.

“I thank my Space Subcommittee colleagues who supported my amendment to the NASA reauthorization that ensures competition and flexibility for NASA in choosing an integrated crewed Mars landing/assent system design,” Brooks explained. “The policy experts at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center analyzed the text of the bill and determined more than two designs would be best. I’m glad this win for Marshall passed and is included in the bill as it heads to full committee debate.”

Brooks is the number two in seniority Republican on the Space Subcommittee.

“NASA needs direction and support from Congress to achieve mission success,” Brooks said. “I’m pleased the Space Subcommittee today took an important step toward providing that direction and support by passing a bipartisan NASA reauthorization bill. This is not a perfect bill. There are good and bad parts. Nonetheless, I supported the bill with my vote today and look forward to improving this bill throughout the legislative process.”

“This NASA reauthorization bill enhances America’s space exploration programs by: embracing the Artemis Moon and Mars exploration program while setting a 2033 date for human orbit of Mars; strengthening the Space Launch System program, much of which is done at the Tennessee Valley’s Marshall Space Flight Center; recognizing the importance of heliophysics research to understanding space weather; continuing NASA’s thermonuclear propulsion development; and, commissioning an interagency assessment of China’s space exploration capabilities and threats posed by China to America’s space assets.”

Brooks amendment reads, “to the extent funding permits, the administrator shall maintain two competing integrated crewed Mars landing assent system design concepts through the critical design review milestone at which point the administrator shall make a selection of the system to be utilized in the first human Mars landing mission.”

“I believe that it is probably best to allow the administrator to have two or more and as such this amendment adds the phrasing “at least” in front of the word “two”, Brooks said. “I believe in competition, I believe in the diversity of ideas, and the more ideas, quite frankly that are presented to the administrator, the better the chance that we have a good one that will work.”

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The bill passed the subcommittee by voice vote.

H.R. 5666 will next be marked-up by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee before proceeding to House Floor consideration.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is in Huntsville. NASA and its contractors are major employers in the Fifth Congressional District. The Space Launch System will carry Artemis to the moon and on to Mars.

Mo Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is number two in seniority amongst Space Subcommittee Republicans.

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