For nearly 50 years, men and women have worked in underground bunkers, watching over the missiles that have acted as a deterrent to attacks on the U.S. since the time before there was an Internet, before cell phones or fax machines.
The Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile system began its watch in 1962 and is still today at the ready, if called upon, to deliver nuclear warheads toward hostile targets thousands of miles away.
Retired Air Force officer Don Adams now works as a systems engineer for Boeing in Huntsville, but before that spent a career commanding and then maintaining the Minuteman III system, the last iteration of the country’s land-based ICBMs.
“Most people get into missiles and it’s not something that they want to do,” Adams said, but he enjoyed his work.
During his 27-year career in the Air Force Adams worked as a missile crew member, an instructor of missile operations and in missile maintenance as chief of ICBM maintenance at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and finally as maintenance group manager at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
“Everything I touched in Minuteman had Boeing’s name on it,” Adams said, so he was happy to go to work for the company that made the missiles he looked after all those years.
The Minuteman system, now capable of delivering a warhead to targets as far as about 8,083 miles away at 15,000 miles an hour, was first put on strategic alert on Oct. 26, 1962, when the U.S. learned that Russia had placed nuclear missiles on Cuba.
The Alpha-06 launch facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana became the first to be put on alert, and after 13 tense days Russia backed down and removed missiles from Cuba. President John Kennedy is said to have later referred to the Minuteman system as our “ace in the hole,” although some researchers have said Kennedy never said the phrase.
“That wing is called the “First Aces” for that reason,” Adams said.
Today, there are around 440 solid-fueled Minuteman III missiles, kept at the Malmstrom Air Force Base, the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
One of the biggest challenges with keeping these aging missiles up, Adams said, is sourcing the parts to do so. Over time some of the companies that made components are no longer in business, and some parts have had to be reverse engineered and built from scratch.
“A lot of technology differences that we’ve had to deal with,” Adams said, but over the years those missiles have been gone over from top to bottom. New propulsion and guidance systems, and the launch facilities themselves have had extensive upgrades over the years, he said.
One thing that can’t be helped is the harsh weather at those missile silos, Adams said, but that comes with the job of a missile crew member.
“It’s not uncommon to be out in a missile field, 25 below zero with a 40 knot wind blowing, and they’re out there keeping America safe. Keeping these things on alert,” Adams said. “You’ve got a lot of dedicated people who are just good Americans doing what what they should be doing, and what they need to do.”
“It really comes down to people,” Adams said. “You’ve got really well-trained airman who are dedicated to their job and they understand the importance of the nuclear mission.”
The Air Force is to replace the Minuteman III system in the late 2030’s with a new next-generation nuclear ICBM Ground Based Strategic Deterrent system, so the Minuteman III will remain at the ready for another 20 or so years.
Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority
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.
“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.
Brooks announces that Alabama rocket launches NASA Solar Orbiter
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.”
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.
Brooks votes for NASA Authorization Act
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.”
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.
Airbus announces plans to hire 275 more workers for Mobile plant
Airbus announced Thursday plans to increase production and bring 275 new jobs to the airplane manufacturing company’s plant in Mobile.
“Airbus’ ever-expanding footprint in Mobile has become the core of a rapidly growing aerospace cluster throughout the Gulf Coast. Moreover, the company’s plans to increase aircraft production in Alabama, yet once again, means new investment and new jobs,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement Thursday. “Today’s news of the Airbus expansion is a big vote of confidence in the quality and caliber of the Alabama workforce. Today’s announcement will also better position Mobile to remain on track to becoming one of the top four cities in the world for aerospace manufacturing. I look forward to seeing Airbus reach future milestones at its U.S. manufacturing home in Sweet Home Alabama.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby applauded the news as well, citing the company’s continued growth in the state.
“Supporting economic investment and job growth remains one of my highest priorities. I applaud Airbus for increasing the production rate and adding more good-paying jobs in Mobile,” Shelby said in a statement. “This expansion highlights Airbus’ continued commitment to Alabama. I am proud they are building advanced, state-of-the-art aircraft in our state and honored for this world-renowned company to call Mobile home.”
Airbus will begin hiring the additional workers this year to ramp up production of Airbus’s A320 family of aircraft to seven per month. The additional jobs come after the company added 600 new workers in 2019.
“The significant expansion of Airbus’ manufacturing activities in Mobile will make the area an even more attractive location for aerospace suppliers and service providers, which will bring in additional jobs and investment,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, in a statement Thursday. “With demand remaining strong for new aircraft, I’m confident that Mobile will see continued growth in the aviation sector as it builds toward critical mass.”
“Airbus is proud to call Alabama home and we’re thrilled to announce a production rate increase for our best-selling A320 aircraft,” said C. Jeffrey Knittel, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, in a statement. “The support we receive from Senator Shelby and our other supporters in Alabama made growing the Mobile operation an easy and obvious decision for Airbus.”
In 2015, Airbus opened a $600 million, 53-acre facility in Mobile, and construction began on a second final assembly line for the A220 aircraft in January 2019.
The Mobile production facility has more than 1,000 employees, and by the end of 2020 Airbus expects to employee 1,300 workers at the plant.
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