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Former NASA Administrator James Beggs has died

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, NASA Administrator James Beggs passed away. Beggs was NASA’s sixth administrator. He served under President Ronald W. Reagan (R). His tenure at NASA was highlighted by the successful launch of the space shuttle program.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine commented on the passing of Administrator Beggs. Mr. Beggs served as NASA administrator from July 1981 to December 1985.

“NASA sends its condolences to the family of James Beggs,” Bridenstine said. “Mr. Beggs led the agency during the earliest days of the Space Shuttle Program and helped us open a whole new era of exploration. We continue to build on his legacy today as we take advantage of our long-term presence in low-Earth orbit to make the advances to travel farther, and seed an entirely new segment of the economy through the innovations of commercial partners.”

“Mr. Beggs also served his country in the U.S. Navy and supported NASA’s achievements during the Apollo era during an agency tenure in the late 1960s,” Bridenstine continued. “His legacy guided the shuttle program toward its three decades of achievements and set the stage for a diverse and flexible astronaut corps from which we continue to benefit. We salute his service and will continue to honor his contributions to our great agency.”

James Montgomery Beggs was born on January 6, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1947 and served with the Navy until 1954. In 1955, he received a master’s in business administration (MBA) from Harvard. Beggs built a successful career at Westinghouse Electric Company.

Beggs worked with NASA from 1968 and 1969 during the Apollo years as an Associate Administrator of the Office of Advanced Research and Technology. From 1969 to 1973 he served Pres. Richard M. Nixon (R) as undersecretary of Transportation. Beggs went to work for Summa Corporation as managing director of operations. In January 1974, he went to defense contractor General Dynamics where he became the executive vice president and director.

Beggs served as NASA Administrator under Reagan until December 4, 1985, when he took an indefinite leave of absence following an indictment from the Justice Department for activities taking place prior to his tenure at NASA when he was at General Dynamics. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing and the U.S. Attorney General apologized to Mr. Beggs for any embarrassment. His resigned from NASA was effective on February 25, 1986 following the space shuttle Challenger explosion. Beggs denied any knowledge of any problems with the o-rings on the solid rocket boosters.

Beggs was also a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Club and the American Astronautical Society; his other professional affiliations include the National Academy of Public Administration, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Society of Naval Engineers, and Sigma Tau.

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Beggs married Mary Harrison, and they had five children.

Beggs died from congestive heart failure in his home in Bethesda, Maryland.

You can read a transcript of an Oral History Project interview with Mr. Beggs, performed in March 2002, here.

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Jones disappointed that Austal lost frigate contract to Fincantieri

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Austal USA’s bid for the U.S. Navy’s $795 million contract to build the next-generation guided missile Frigate was rejected in favor of a design offered by Fincantieri Marinette Marine, a Wisconsin-based shipbuilder. U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, did not hide his disappointment with the Navy’s decision. Austal builds the the Independence class littoral combat ship (LCS), expeditionary fast transports, and other navy vessels in Mobile.

“I am disappointed that the Navy chose not to award the contract for the next-generation guided-missile frigate to Austal USA,” Jones said. “Austal is the only U.S. shipbuilder providing ships to the Navy on time and on budget right now. It is my understanding that this award is for the first ten of a potential 20-ship buy, and I am confident that if Austal chooses to compete for future awards, the Navy will find Austal to be the best choice.

“Just last December, Austal USA celebrated 20 years of shipbuilding in Mobile,” Jones said. “Austal’s extraordinary success is testament to its unmatched local workforce and its ability to build highly capable, cost-effective ships safely and on schedule. I especially appreciate Austal’s commitment to the health and safety of its employees and the community, as well as to our national security, through the workforce protection measures it has implemented and its economic support donations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our shipbuilders are critical to our national defense, and I am grateful for their dedication during this difficult time.”

Fincantieri will build an adapted variant of the Italian FREMM (European multi-purpose frigate) in Wisconsin at its Marinette shipyard. The contract also includes plans for up to nine more ships from the firm — a deal that’s ultimately worth more than $5.5 billion.

Fincantieri’s European built FREMM is already in service with both the Italian and French Navies.

Austal was the builder of the Independence class littoral combat ships as well as other designs including fast transports. When the LCS’s were first built, Austal produced the U.S.S. Independence, an all aluminum trimaran design, and Lockheed produced the U.S.S. Freedom. The two competing LCS designs were evaluated by the Navy and the initial decision was to complete the order as Freedom class LCS’s. Austal’s allies in the Navy and Congress rallied behind the innovative new ships and ultimate the Navy purchased both vessels in quantity, rejecting an Obama Administration plan to build just one class of littoral combat ship. There is still some hope that ten of the new guided missile frigates will be of the Fincantieri design; while ten could be of a second design that Austal could still compete for. General Dynamics and the Bath Ironworks also submitted frigate designs.

“The frigate will be an agile multi-mission warship,” said Navy assistant secretary James Geurts. “They’ll operate in all environments and will be more lethal, survivable and have increased self-defense and local-area defense capability and capacity over previous small-surface combatants.”

The new frigates are designed to defend against near-peer adversaries, such as China and Russia. The new frigate is designed to fight on both the high seas and near the shore, with more capabilities than littoral combat ships but at a much smaller price tag than cruisers and destroyers.

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Speed was a factor in the decision. Because the Fincantieri design is a derivative of an existing class of warship, the European FREMM, the Navy believes that Fincantieri can deliver the new ships quicker than Austal or the other ship builders. The contract award came three months ahead of schedule, in order to get the new frigate program moving surprising many in the political world who did not expect a decision before late summer. The new frigate will have 300 tons more steel than the FREMM to improve its survivability.

“All this was done with an intense focus on cost, acquisition and technical rigor so that we got the best value for our warfighter and the taxpayer,” Geurts said.

Geurts expects delivery of the first ship in 2026, with the class reaching full operational capability by 2032.

The new ships will use a modified version of the SPY-6 radar Raytheon is developing to keep the Navy’s aging destroyers in the fight, along with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System.

Doug Jones is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Original reporting by Military.com and the Defense News contributed to this report.

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Austal loses frigate contract to Fincantieri

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the U.S. Navy awarded a $795 million contract to a Wisconsin-based shipbuilder to begin production on the first of the service’s next-generation small-surface combatants. Fincantieri Marinette Marine won the contract to design and build the first of the new guided-missile frigates. Fincantieri won the contract over a design offered by Mobile-based Austal USA.

Fincantieri will build an adapted variant of the Italian FREMM (European multi-purpose frigate) in Wisconsin at its Marinette shipyard. The contract also includes plans for up to nine more ships from the firm — a deal that’s ultimately worth more than $5.5 billion.

Fincantieri’s FREMM is already in service with both the Italian and French Navies.

When we began this journey nearly two years ago it was with the belief that there was a place for new ideas, new platforms and new partners in an already talented U.S. shipbuilding industry,” said Fincantieri Marine Group CEO Dario Deste. “Today’s announcement validates that thinking.”

The Navy plans to build 20 ships as part of the future frigate program.

“Congratulations to the Navy on this important decision,” added Deste. “The men and women of Fincantieri Marinette Marine and our partner suppliers throughout the United States are ready to get to work.”

In addition to Austal, Fincantierri also beat out designs offered by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Huntington Ingalls Industries. Lockheed withdrew its entry into the competition, an upgraded version of its’ Freedom class LCS from the competition last May.

The award was a disappointment to Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose),

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“The men and women who work at the Austal shipyard in Mobile are the finest in the country,” Rep. Byrne said. “I disagree with the Navy’s decision, and I look forward to thoroughly examining the Navy’s decision making in this process in the coming days. At the same time, I’m committed to working with Austal, the Navy, and the Trump Administration to ensure we don’t destroy our critical shipbuilding industrial base, especially at a time when the threat environment clearly demands more small surface ships.”

Austal was the builder of the Independence class littoral combat ships as well as other designs including fast transports.

Fincantieri is one of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups and has built more than 7,000 vessels in over 230 years of maritime history. It is a leader in cruise ship design and construction and a reference player in all high-tech shipbuilding industry’s sectors, from naval to offshore vessels, from high-complexity special vessels and ferries to mega-yachts.

“The frigate will be an agile multi-mission warship,” said Navy assistant secretary James Geurts. “They’ll operate in all environments and will be more lethal, survivable and have increased self-defense and local-area defense capability and capacity over previous small-surface combatants.”

The new frigate is an important part of the Navy’s plans to modernize for more distributed operations, positioning the U.S. to defend against near-peer adversaries, such as China and Russia. The new frigate is designed to fight on both the high seas and near the shore, with more capabilities than littoral combat ships but a smaller price tag than cruisers and destroyers.

The Navy awarded its contract to Fincantieri three months ahead of schedule, in order to get the new frigate program moving. Since the design is based on an existing warship that is already in service Fincantieri that will speed up the process.

“All this was done with an intense focus on cost, acquisition and technical rigor so that we got the best value for our warfighter and the taxpayer,” Geurts said. “It’s the best I’ve seen in the Navy thus far at integrating all of our teams together and it’s a model we are building on for future programs.”

Geurts expects delivery of the first ship in 2026, with the class reaching full operational capability by 2032.

The new ships will use a modified version of the SPY-6 radar Raytheon is developing to keep the Navy’s aging destroyers in the fight, along with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System.

Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and capabilities, said the goal is for the frigate to be able to fight in “all spectrums of potential conflict.” That includes being able to carry manned helicopters and unmanned aircraft, he said.

“Though it’s classified as a small-surface combatant, it really falls nicely in between our small-surface combatants and our large-surface combatants,” Kilby said. “And I see it doing multiple things. This is going to be a real workhorse for the United States Navy, supporting distributed maritime operations in the future.”

The new frigate will have about 300 tons more steel than the FREMM design because the U.S. Nay has higher standards for ship survivability than the Italian Navy does.

(Original reporting by Military.com and the Defense News contributed to this report.)

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Aderholt salutes the Hubble Space Telescope on its 30th birthday

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) released a statement saluting the Hubble Space Telescope on the thirtieth anniversary of its launch to explore the cosmos.

“Today is a great day for space exploration as one of the most incredible pieces of technology ever produced for space flight turns 30 – the Hubble Telescope,” Rep. Aderholt said. “Launched from the Space Shuttle Discovery on this day in 1990, the Hubble Telescope has given the world a glimpse into the great expanse of the universe, showing us what no human has ever witnessed before. Providing unbelievable amounts of knowledge to NASA’s scientists and a great amount of inspiration to kids across the country, the Hubble Telescope is a beloved part of our mission to explore space.”

“Making this annivesary even more special, all of the design, development, and construction of Hubble was done right here in Alabama, at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,” Aderholt continued. “And, if you never have before, check out what Hubble captured on your birthday by clicking here.”
https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/what-did-hubble-see-on-your-birthday

Using a rocket to put a telescope in space was first proposed by German scientist Hermann Oberth when he published “Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen” (“The Rocket into Planetary Space”). In 1946, Princeton astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer wrote about the scientific benefits of a telescope in space, above Earth’s atmosphere.

in 1957, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched two Orbital Astronomical Observatories (OAOs) into orbit, which made a number of ultraviolet observations and provided learning experiences for the manufacture and launch of future space observatories. Following the OAO program. Spitzer gathered the support of other astronomers for a “large orbital telescope.” In 1969, the National Academy of Sciences gave its approval for the Large Space Telescope (LST) project.

Funding for NASA space programs began to decrease in the 1970s forcing designers to downsize their proposed telescope. The size of the main mirror was reduced from 120 inches to 94. In 1974, the LST Science Working Group recommended the space telescope carry a large complement of interchangeable instruments. The project was to be launched into space by the Space Shuttle, then also under development. The European Space Agency (ESA) joined the project in 1975 and provided fifteen percent of the funding of the LST via contribution of the Faint Object Camera (FOC) and the solar arrays. In return, NASA guaranteed at least fifteen percent of telescope time — the amount of time astronomers use the telescope for space observations — to European astronomers. In 1977, Congress approved funding to build one of the most sophisticated satellites ever constructed.

NASA chose Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as the lead NASA field center for the design, development and construction of the space telescope. Marshall delegated Perkin-Elmer Corporation (now Hughes Danbury Optical Systems) the task of developing the Optical Telescope Assembly and the Fine Guidance Sensors. Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (now Lockheed Martin) was selected by Marshall to build the spacecraft’s outer structure and the Support Systems Module (the internal support systems, which include the computer, power, communications, pointing and control systems) and then assemble the telescope together.

The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was assigned the lead in scientific instrument design and ground control for the space observatory. Five devices were selected as the initial instruments that would be aboard the space telescope: the Faint Object Camera, the Wide Field/Planetary Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph, the High Resolution Spectrograph and the High Speed Photometer. Space shuttle support was provided by the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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In 1983, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) was established at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland to evaluate proposals for telescope time and manage the resulting telescope observations. Delays and cost overruns forced the mission to be moved from December 1983 to the second half of 1986. The original plan was to take the telescope from orbit back to Earth for servicing; and then return it back to space. Plans were changed in the 1980s to conduct servicing missions in orbit versus returning the telescope to Earth and refurbishing it on the ground. The space telescope was renamed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), after astronomer Edwin Hubble. By 1985, the telescope was assembled and ready for launch well ahead of its December 1986 launch. The Challenger accident that year however grounded the space shuttle fleet for two years. The Hubble team made several improvements in the design while it was delayed.

On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope finally made it to space onboard the space shuttle Discovery. lifted off from Earth with the Hubble Space Telescope nestled securely in its bay. The Hubble Space Telescope was released into orbit the next day.

When the first Hubble images were sent to Earth, astronomers did not see crisp, point-like images of stars. Instead, they saw stars surrounded by large, fuzzy halos of light. They soon realized that this issue was created because the edges of the telescope’s primary mirror were ground too flat by just a fraction of the width of a human hair. Although perfectly smooth, the mirror could not focus light to a single point. It had been ground to the wrong shape because of a flaw introduced into the test equipment used to evaluate the mirror’s curvature prior to launch. Hubble was not designed for astronauts to replace the primary mirror.

Before Hubble had launched the engineers had already begun working on an improved, second-generation camera for the space telescope. This instrument, called the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), was meant for installation by astronauts at a future date. Optics experts realized they could build corrective optics into this camera to counteract the flaw in the primary mirror. Meanwhile, Hubble scientists and engineers devised a set of nickel- and quarter-sized mirrors to remedy the effects of the primary mirror on Hubble’s other instruments. The Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) was a refrigerator-sized device that could deploy the corrective mirrors into the light paths of the telescope’s other science instruments to focus their images properly. In December 1993, a space shuttle mission launched to add new instruments such as the WFPC2 and COSTAR, which countered the effects of the primary mirror’s flawed shape.

A second space shuttle second servicing mission (SM2) took place, resulting in the replacement of degrading spacecraft components, and the installation of new instruments such as the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

On November 13, 1999, the fourth of six gyroscopes (gyros) failed on Hubble, and the telescope was essentially dead in space. The gyros measure the spacecraft’s rate of motion and help point Hubble toward its observation target. Unable to conduct science without three working gyros, Hubble entered a state of dormancy called safe mode. Essentially, Hubble “went to sleep.”

Again, astronauts aboard the space shuttle came to Hubble’s rescue with Servicing Mission 3A (SM3A) on December 1999 and Servicing Mission 3B (SM3B) on March 2002. SM3A astronauts replaced all six gyroscopes with new ones, and installed a faster, more powerful main computer, a next-generation solid-state data recorder, a new transmitter, new insulation and other equipment. During SM3B, astronauts installed a new science instrument called the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). ACS sees in wavelengths ranging from visible to far-ultraviolet, and can produce 10 times the science results in the same amount of time than the camera it replaced, the Faint Object Camera (FOC).

In 2009, space shuttle astronauts returned again on Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) and installed two new scientific instruments: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). They also repairs the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), the first-ever on-orbit instrument repairs. In order to prolong Hubble’s life, other components were replaced including new batteries, new gyroscopes and a new science computer. In addition, a device was attached to the base of the telescope to facilitate de-orbiting when the telescope is eventually decommissioned. The space shuttles were retired in 2011

Hubble’s mission was to spend at least 15 years probing the farthest and faintest reaches of the cosmos. Hubble has exceeded this goal, operating and observing the universe for almost 30 years. During its time in orbit, the telescope has taken more than 1.4 million observations, and astronomers have used that data to publish more than 16,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications on a broad range of topics.

No more servicing missions are scheduled to repair or replace equipment on Hubble. However, a dedicated team of engineers and scientists are continuously working to keep Hubble operating for as long as possible. For example, Hubble’s engineers have figured out a way the telescope could continue observing the universe on only one gyro, using other types of sensors on the spacecraft to make up for gyros that have failed. This and other innovations designed to extend the lifetime of Hubble’s equipment will keep the telescope exploring for years to come.

Congressman Robert Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

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Ivey announces that F-35s will go to Dannelly Field

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced that the Secretary of the Air Force has officially selected the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannely Field in Montgomery as the Air National Guard’s 6th operational location for the F-35s.

“After significant work, Montgomery, Alabama is officially going to be home to the F-35s,” Gov. Ivey said. “Our state not only has a rich history in flight, but we have longstanding support of our nation’s military and defense. I am grateful to the secretary of the Air Force for recognizing what Alabama will continue to offer our military efforts. Most importantly, I am appreciative of the hard work our congressional delegation and the many people who have helped make this possible.”

“This morning Air Force Secretary Barrett called to let me know that she would be announcing the final decision to designate the 187th Fighter Wing (187 FW) at Dannelly Field, Montgomery Regional Airport as the 6th F-35 operational location,” U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) said. ”This is great news for the 187 FW’s mission capabilities and for the state as a whole. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter represents the cutting edge of military technology and will enhance the Wing’s opportunities to continue their outstanding record of contributions to our national security. From my position on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to advocate for Congress to allocate the funds for the facilities needed to house and maintain these aircraft in time for their expected arrival in December of 2023.”

“GREAT NEWS: the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force today officially announced the 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama Air National Guard at Dannelly Field has been selected as the Air National Guard’s 6th operational location for the F-35s!” Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said. “This is exceptional news for the River Region and the state of Alabama. A very special thank you to United States Air Force for your continued investment in our state’s military efforts.”

In addition to the Alabama site, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the selection of the 115th Fighter Wing at Traux Field, Wisconsin. In 2018, the two sites in Alabama and Wisconsin were identified as Preferred Alternatives for the Ops 5 and 6 Basing Action. The secretary’s decision and signing of the Record of Decision (ROD) completes this basing process, making Alabama the official home to the F-35s.

The Air Force Strategic Basing Process selected both installations based on existing F-16 fleet dynamics, the presence of active associations and infrastructure MILCON and requirements, which focus on minimizing operational transition costs and enhancing combat capability and capacity. Endorsement of the ROD is a significant milestone, which allows the Alabama Air National Guard to move forward with training personnel and to move on critical infrastructure projects, both crucial to successful mission beddown.

“We are thrilled that the waiting is over and we have received the final word that we will be the home of the F35, this decision continues the tradition of the Red Tails and Tuskegee Airman,” said Maj. General Gordon. “I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce and County Commissioners for all their efforts and support. It is a great honor to be selected as the home of the most technologically advanced fighter in the Air Force inventory. We look forward to working with the Montgomery Airport Authority, the city of Montgomery and our State officials as we move ahead to prepare our facilities to accommodate the F35.”

As construction begins, concurrent delivery of the F-35A aircraft will likely begin in April 2023 for Ops 5 and December 2023 for Ops 6.

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The Lockheed Martin F-35A is a fifth-generation fighter jet that combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three variants of the F-35 will replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and 10 other countries around the world. According to the Air Force, the F-35A will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s.

The Pentagon estimates that the F-35 will remain in the U.S. inventory through 2077. It is the costliest weapon system in the history of the world, with an estimated total program cost of $1.196 billion over the expected six decades-long life of the program.

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