Category: (13)

Harris Corp. CEO WIlliam Brown said on a fourth-quarter earnings call that his company will "dispassionately, objectively and aggressively assess which businesses strategically fit and are a better value to Harris as well as which businesses may be a better value on their own or with a third party."

Harris Corp. CEO WIlliam Brown said on a fourth-quarter earnings call that his company will “dispassionately, objectively and aggressively assess which businesses strategically fit and are a better value to Harris as well as which businesses may be a better value on their own or with a third party.”

After months of speculation, Melbourne, Florida-based Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS) announced Friday it is selling its government IT services division to New York private equity group Veritas Capital for $690 million in cash.

The Herndon-based government IT division, which is expected to generate about $1.07 billion in revenue in 2017, has roughly 900 employees locally. The unit serves NASA’s Space Communications Network and Deep Space Network programs. Harris’ air traffic management business is not part of the deal.

The acquisition is expected to close before the end of fiscal 2017. Harris stock was up about 1.6 percent in early trading Friday.

The sale is just the latest example in a wave of major defense and government services companies shedding their noncore IT divisions or units.

I began writing about rumors that Harris was looking to divest this line of business in August, the same month that Lockheed Martin Corp. merged its Information Systems and Global Solutions business with Leidos Holdings Inc., creating the largest government services company. Harris CEO

Speculation about a divestiture heated up in August after activist investor Jana Partners LLC took a 1.9 percent stake Harris, tipping off Wall Street analysts that a deal may be in the company’s future. Jana had taken a 5.9 percent stake in early 2015 in Computer Sciences Corp. and months later that company announced it would spin off its public sector IT business. That spinoff eventually merged with SRA International to create what is now known as CSRA Inc. (NYSE: CSRA).

Harris also hasn’t shied away from divesting large business segments. In February 2016, Harris announced that it was selling its aerostructures business to Albany International Corp. in $210 million deal. In November, ahead of a quarterly earnings call with analysts, Harris announced that it was selling its CapRock Communications business for $425 million to SpeedCast International Ltd. I wrote about how this move only intensified the prospect that the IT services division was next.

“Today’s announced divestiture, coupled with the recent sale of CapRock, reflects our strategy of optimizing the business portfolio to create shareholder value,” Harris Chairman and CEO William Brown said in a statement Friday. “These divestitures sharpen Harris’ focus on growing core franchises where technology is a key differentiator, providing compelling value to our customers.”

The CapRock Communications business provides wireless communications for cruise ships and energy customers. It was a laggard within Harris and its divestiture served as indication that it would portend an IT divestiture, largely because on earnings calls with analysts, Harris management often mentioned its struggles in the same breath that it talked about the IT services businesses comparable challenges.

With this purchase, the New York-based Veritas Capital adds another Beltway government services company to its portfolio. This new purchase will join McLean-based Alion Science and Technology Corp. and Chantilly-based Vencore Inc. Vertias also owns Loveland, Colorado-based KeyPoint Government Solutions Inc. and was rumored to be buying a spinoff of BAE Systems Inc.’s government IT services before that company pulled those assets off the market.

It’s not clear whether Veritas will establish the Harris unit as its own stand-alone company or merge it with other holdings.

Article by James Bach, covers federal contracting, Washington Business Journal, Complete Article [ HERE ].

Officials Wednesday broke ground on a 115-tall air traffic control tower at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport. The estimated price tag of the new tower is $5.5 million. (Photo: Provided)

Officials Wednesday broke ground on a 115-tall air traffic control tower at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport. The estimated price tag of the new tower is $5.5 million.
(Photo: Provided)

MELBOURNE — The city of Melbourne soon will have a new signature landmark with the ground breaking for a 115-foot air traffic control tower at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

Set to be up and running by year’s end, the $5.3 million tower will replace a structure that has been a presence at the Melbourne airport for more than 50 years. A new tower was a priority of airport Executive Director Greg Donovan when he started here in 2014.

“It took us a long time to get to this point,” Donovan said Wednesday morning at the groundbreaking event with about 75 people in attendance.

“This control tower will have the ability to apply the most advanced technology for not only air traffic control, but also safety and security of the whole airport environment,” he said.”

With increased activity at the airport Donovan and others see a new, modern tower as a must. The current tower stands at 79-feet and has no elevator or handicap accommodations.

Another plus for the community is that Harris Corp., whose headquarters is on airport property about a mile from Donovan’s office, is a global leader in air traffic control technology and will supply much of the flight control systems for the new tower.

The groundbreaking coincides with a recent report by John Boyd, a Princeton, New Jersey‐based site selection expert for aerospace manufacturing companies. Boyd said the Space Coast  — and other parts of Florida — are hot right now because of a growing reputation as low-cost business areas with a deep pool aerospace and aviation workers.

Boyd was in Cocoa Beach last week and he presented his report last week to a number of local aerospace/aviation clients, including suppliers.

Of 10 “top aerospace centers” in the United States that Boyd studied, he found Brevard County to have the third lowest operating costs, trailing only Florence/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area and Savannah, Georgia. Factors included in Boyd’s study include labor and and land costs, taxes and availability of workforce training and educational programs.

“The news is very good for Brevard County,” Boyd said, adding a push by President Donald Trump to “re-shore” or bring manufacturing and assembly operations back to the United States should mean more aeropsace/aviation jobs.

“The question is where will these projects go?” Boyd said. “And the answer is they’re going to go low-cost markets that are in  ‘right-to-work’ states. And Brevard County fits nicely within that context.”

Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz.

Article by Wayne Price at Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – A vital missile reconnaissance satellite for the U.S. Force soared to space atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral at dinnertime Friday night, Jan. 20, 2017.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the $1.2 Billion Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 3 infrared imaging satellite lifted off at 7:42 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

“GEO Flight 3 delivery and launch marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the missile-warning community, missile defense and the intelligence community. It’s an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for years to come,” says Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for space, in a statement.

The Space Based Infrared System is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands in four national security mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

“The hard work and dedication of the launch team has absolutely paid off,” Col. Dennis Bythewood, director of the Remote Sensing Directorate said in a statement.

“Today’s launch of GEO Flight 3 culminates years of preparation by a broad team of government and industry professionals.”

The SBIRS GEO Flight 3 missile defense observatory built for the USAF will detect and track the infrared signatures of incoming enemy missiles twice as fast as the prior generation of satellites and is vital to America’s national security.

SBIRS GEO Flight 3 was launched to geosynchronous transfer orbit to an altitude approx 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth.

The Atlas V was launched southeast at an inclination of 23.29 degrees. SBIRS GEO Flight 3 separated from the 2nd stage as planned 43 minutes after liftoff.

Following separation, the spacecraft began a series of orbital maneuvers to propel it to a geosynchronous earth orbit. Once in its final orbit, engineers will deploy the satellite’s solar arrays and antennas. The engineers will then complete checkout and tests in preparation for operational use, USAF officials explained.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator.

The SBIRS team is led by the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Article by Ken Kramer Universe Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]

Port Canaveral's Terminal 5 opened in June and paves way to larger boats. (port canaveral)

Port Canaveral’s Terminal 5 opened in June and paves way to larger boats. (port canaveral)

Terminals, roads, piers and docks are on the agenda for Port Canaveral’s five-year capital improvement plan.

So said Bill Crowe, Port Canaveral’s senior director of engineering construction and facilities, as he presented the renovation projects the port has invested in during the past few years, as well its future budgets during the Associated Builders & Contractors of Central Florida Builders’ Breakfast meeting on Jan. 17.

Here’s what is included in the five-year plan:

  • $8 million for the Northside Cruise Terminal Roadway Network project costing $4 million in 2017 and another $4 million in 2018.
  • $8.3 million for the West Turning Basin Deepening, which was awarded to Dutra Dredging.
  • $4.4 million for State Road 401 erosion repair and bridge painting, which is included in this year’s budget.
  • $2.5 million for NCP1/2 bollards, fenders and deck rehab for this year.
  • $2.75 million for the Wayfinding project this year.
  • $1 million for Cruise Terminals 6 & 10 scour mats this year.
  • $2.1 million for improved fendering and bollards at various existing dock facilities for this fiscal year as well.
  • $500,000 in miscellaneous equipment purchases this year.
  • $250,000 in miscellaneous pier improvements this year.
  • $501,000 in maintenance dredging this year.
  • $380,000 for Commission Room Technology and Maritime Center phone system upgrades this year.
  • $1.25 million for soft costs associated with the new cruise terminal this year.
  • A $26.4 million budget for capital projects in 2018.
  • A $32.3 million budget for capital projects in 2019.

Meanwhile, see the slideshow for a look at Port Canaveral’s two 270-foot-high cargo container cranes.

Brezina covers economic development.

Article by Veronica Brezina Orlando Business Journal, Complete Article [ HERE ]

SpaceX hangar at the base of Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. (Photo: SpaceX)

SpaceX hangar at the base of Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A.
(Photo: SpaceX)

SpaceX before the end of this month hopes to fly a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center for the first time.

The company is targeting a launch no earlier than Monday, Jan. 30, of the EchoStar 23 commercial communications satellite from KSC’s historic pad 39A, the former Saturn V and space shuttle pad.

A liftoff on Monday would be at 12:04 a.m., so the countdown would mostly unfold next Sunday night.

Before then, SpaceX is expected to fuel the rocket on the pad and light its nine main engines, a standard pre-launch rehearsal.

The KSC launch follows the Falcon 9’s successful return to flight Jan. 14 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a mission that delivered 10 Iridium Communications satellites to orbit and saw SpaceX land the rocket’s first stage at sea.

SpaceX needs to launch from KSC because pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station remains damaged the Sept. 1 explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 and commercial satellite during a test.

The satellite expected to be the first to fly on a used — or “flight proven” — Falcon 9 rocket was transported from France to Cape Canaveral last week.

Manufacturer Airbus Defense and Space shipped the SES-10 communications satellite for Luxembourg-based SES.

SES has entrusted SpaceX with challenging missions before. In December 2013, an SES satellite was the first flown by a Falcon 9 to a geosynchronous orbit high over the equator.

No launch date has been confirmed for the SES-10 mission, which will ride on a booster that on its first flight launched supplies to the International Space Station.

Kennedy Space Center recently completed a significant milestone in its preparations to work on the Space Launch System exploration rocket.

The last of 20 platforms — paired to form 10 levels — that will give workers access to the 322-foot rocket and Orion crew capsules was installed in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

NASA and contractor employees signed the last platform half before hoisting it into position on the uppermost level earlier this month.

The space agency is targeting a late 2018 test flight of the SLS and an unmanned Orion from launch pad 39B.

A series of events next week will honor astronauts lost in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia disasters.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Astronauts Memorial Foundation will host a Day of Remembrance ceremony followed by a wreath-laying at the Space Mirror Memorial. NASA TV will broadcast the 10 a.m. ceremony.

On Friday, Jan. 27, the 45th Space Wing will host an invitation-only tribute to the three Apollo 1 astronauts at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 34, 50 years after a flash fire killed the crew in their capsule during a countdown simulation.

On Saturday, Jan. 28, Titusville’s Flag and Memorial Committee and the American Space Museum will co-host a memorial event at Sand Point Park.

Launch and Learn

Lockheed Martin engineers on Jan. 17 visited students at Cocoa Beach Jr. /Sr. High, a few days before a missile warning satellite built by the company was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas V rocket.

The engineers used hands-on lessons about space missions to promote science, technology, engineering and math careers as part of Lockheed’s “Launch and Learn” program.”

Lockheed built the third Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, satellite whose launch began a $1.2 billion mission to detect and track ballistic missiles and rockets.

A fourth satellite completing the global warning system is expected to launch in November.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 And follow on Twitter at@flatoday_jdeanand on Facebook

Article by James Dean, Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]


Artist conception of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket factory at Kennedy Space Center's Exploration Park, on NASA land managed by Space Florida. (Photo: Blue Origin)

Artist conception of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket factory at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park, on NASA land managed by Space Florida. (Photo: Blue Origin)

The “place for space.”

That’s the motto I came up with 23 years ago for the first Space Day in Tallahassee. But a more accurate phrasing would have been “Florida is the place for space launches,” because that’s all there was, launches, with nearly all the shots financed by the U.S. Government.

In 1997 and 2000, I wrote a pair of editorials for Space News lamenting the harsh business conditions commercial launchers faced at the Cape. My analysis: WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get. The launch business was static, the rocket family old, the Cape’s launch manifest stable but not growing.

Three years ago, I wrote a column here updating my pessimism, suggesting that just maybe new “shooters,” a more accommodating Air Force, and the growing mass of data to be moved might improve the space business here.

Now? Wow! Florida is becoming the place for all kinds of space business. We’re riding a space boom.

The Moorman Report. You’ve never heard of it, right? In the early ‘90s, General Tom Moorman authored a national study offering four options for the future of unmanned space launches. The Air Force signed off on his Option Two recommending a significant upgrade to the existing family of launch rockets. You see his vision as reality with every launch of the new Delta-4s and Atlas-5s. We’ve got good rockets.

The end of the shuttle program. Knowing that cash cow was dying, space interests started working for the future rather than just milking the past.

The information revolution. It turned into the data explosion: commercial space had to find a bigger ride.

With these factors as boosters, Brevard space has taken off.

The prime movers of this growth are the huge expansion of space-based data transfer and the number of commercial launches serving that need, a good share of the work coming here.

Brevard has done a lot to foster this growth.

We voted overwhelmingly to renew our strong incentives for new business and to put money into our schools and the Indian River Lagoon to keep Brevard attractive to new companies.

The North Brevard Economic Development Zone is going strong. The Port is investing up north, too.

Great leadership at Space Florida and the EDC successfully brought in a breed of space business we’d not had before: manufacturing. We have two big, new plants going up at Exploration Park, for a rocket maker (Blue Origin) and, right next door, for a satellite builder (OneWeb).

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, a pair of digital-age fat cats, are bringing us new launch methods, new rockets, and new ideas, rethinking space-launch as a profit center.

With this new commercial funding flooding in, we’re a bit less dependent on Congress for our space business and less hurt by congressional propensity to spend federal space money elsewhere as pork.

The Air Force and our 45th Space Wing have become true enablers of commercial launch. NASA has finally decided that commercial-space cooperation is good for NASA.

And while we’re keeping score, let’s not forget the first “A” in NASA: aeronautics. With Embraer’s large and growing footprint, Northrop-Grumman’s relocating its headquarters here and expanding, and Melbourne Airport’s success serving commercial aviation, Brevard is becoming the place for major aeronautical enterprise too.

Alas, all this could change. The legacy space companies face a more competitive, less welcoming business climate. Hurricanes are always a threat. Rising sea levels now, too. Many think the Trump Administration is scary and unpredictable, trade barriers and a declining economy potentially crippling the space business. The local cranks who hate economic development (and apparently love higher taxes) might gain an upper hand. No one can fully predict the future.

But what we see now is encouraging. Brevard’s space landscape has changed dramatically and for the better. We truly have become … The Space Coast.

John Byron lives in Cocoa Beach. For five years he served as Vice Chairman of the Florida’s Space Business Roundtable and was the first Space Sector Chair of the Florida Aviation Aerospace Alliance. As Commanding Officer of Naval Ordnance Test Unit, he supervised the launch of 52 TRIDENT missiles from downrange submerged submarines.

Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees. (Photo: CRAIG RUBADOUX)

Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees.

Manager McNees explains how city has navigated one intriguing development story after another

It could soon get new urban-style apartments, a boutique hotel and even a WaWa gas station downtown. A group of investors has begun mentoring more tech startups in the city and is building a privately funded incubator south of Crane Creek. Aerospace contractors such as Northrop Grumman continue to hire more engineers near the airport.

Together, these could drive economic and social change in a city center that for decades struggled with vacancies and blight. It also brings new challenges for police and for preserving quality of life. And, yes, the city still has to balance its budget and repave miles of roads.

I explored all of those issues in depth with Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees. Check out these excerpts from our interview for WEFS-TV.


On “The Matt Reed Show,” Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees about an apartment project proposed for Eau Gallie and two downtown Melbourne developments including the Highline apartments. Video by Rob Landers. Posted 1/11/17.

Question: The highest-profile project up for votes this month is the Highline apartment complex on New Haven Avenue, next door to the Henegar Center for the arts downtown. Eight stories, 171 units, three years of planning and negotiations. What do you make of it?

McNees: This has been years and years in the making, all the way back to the development of the downtown master plan in the first place.

It’s a really important project in terms of bringing residential densities downtown. That does so many things: It creates a vitality, it supports retail, it supports office uses — which we’ve struggled to preserve – and helps drive a varied economy.

Thankfully, we have a very committed, high-energy investor-developer who has worked with us as we assembled the land needed. It’s a long process that is not for the meek – especially if you’re the guy investing the money.

Something I hear out there is, “Why does the city pay so much attention to downtown?” with the connotation that it’s somehow at the expense of other parts of Melbourne. I hope people recognize that downtown is everyone’s “living room.” It’s where everyone goes for recreation, specialty retail and restaurants you don’t see elsewhere.

The better that environment is, the better it is for everyone. It supports everyone’s property values and quality of life.

Q: And now there’s the possibility of a stylish apartment project in old Eau Gallie, between the east- and westbound lanes of the boulevard, at the site of an old discount-furniture store. Same situation?

McNees: That’s a concept at this point, I don’t know a lot about the details, although it could have the same kind of catalytic effect in Eau Gallie.

The scale of Eau Gallie and the maturation of the area as an entertainment district are a little different.

But what I like about Eau Gallie is that the intrinsic values to the geography are off the charts. River views. Legitimate old-Florida charm that isn’t manufactured.

Q: Farther along, it sounds like, is a downtown hotel proposed on what is now a parking lot behind Meg O’Malley’s between Strawbridge and New Haven. What’s up with that?

McNees: The developers have proposed an urban, boutique-type hotel, and they are diligently working. They’ve talked about several different brands – a lot of the hotel chains now have those. It would be perfect for downtown.

I understand the lending markets are a little hinky right now with the transition in Washington and other conditions. But they’re working on financing. The city has worked with them to where we wouldn’t be in it financially but would be helping them get access to lower interest rates. And we’d have some sharing of parking.

If that one breaks ground, and the Highline breaks ground, things are really going to get exciting.

Q: Less exciting are the city’s core responsibilities to maintain its roads – something every local government seemed to fall behind on during the recession. How has Melbourne coped?

McNees: I give all credit to the Melbourne city council to being willing to take a stand, and to taxpayers and our city engineer.

The council, starting three years ago, realized we had a critical problem. They agreed to raise a certain amount of general fund tax millage to commit specifically to road resurfacing. They’ve kept that commitment. At budget hearings, residents have generally been supportive.

Our city engineer, Jenny Lamb, has done an excellent job of researching where the work was most needed. The council agreed to a priority list, not based on their districts but on need.

We’re repaving 18 miles of road this year, so at least we’re keeping up.

Q: One downside, it seemed, to downtown nightlife was the need for more cops to deal with fights and noise.  But there’s been little news about that lately. What happened?

McNees: We’ve had some changes in our strategies. We were approaching the downtown issues as “extras.”  How could we scrape up enough people and overtime to deal with Friday and Saturday night?

My way of thinking was different. What happens downtown is not extra, it’s part of our core work. We support this environment, and it’s a critical part of our community.

So, the chief organized a community-response team, and not just on Friday and Saturday.  Cause and effect is a little hard to prove, but since then, the problems seem to have died down.

Some our problems with transients have improved.

But it’s going to be a constant process.

Contact Reed at Follow him online at or on Twitter @MattReedWrites

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye

E-2D Flying

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Melbourne location landed an $8 million defense contract on Jan. 19, and the firm is on a hiring spree for Central Florida workers.

The Falls Church, Va.-based company (NYSE: NOC) will work with the U.S. Navy to support the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft — a radar and communication airborne system. Contract work has a completion date of January 2018.

Thanks to the firm’s Brevard County location frequently scooping up government contracts, Northrop Grumman is on a hiring spree in Central Florida for its locations in Melbourne, Orlando and Apopka. The company has 182 positions open for Central Florida, according to it career website, with 160 in Melbourne, 18 in Orlando and four in Apopka.

Job titles include software engineers, supportability engineers, cyber systems engineers, information technology workers, mechanical engineers and many more across the board in design, technology and manufacturing. Most of these jobs are considered high-wage, paying $70,000-$100,000 annually.

Northrop Grumman in Melbourne has major expansion plans in store. Already, the company has completed the first phase of its expansion, which included a 220,000-square-foot building dubbed Building 229. T he company also plans to build a 500,000-square-foot complex. The company landed a multibillion-dollar contract to design and build a stealth bomber. Design work for that contract will take place in Melbourne, but building the aircraft will take place elsewhere.

Central Florida is a major player when it comes to defense contracts. About $4 billion in government contracts flow through the Orlando region each year because the nation’s Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines simulation operations are based in Central Florida Research Park. That work helps make Orlando the modeling, simulation and training capital of the world, according to the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

Richardson covers technology and general assignments for online and print.

Article by Matthew Richardson, Orlando Business Journal, Complete Article [ HERE ]

Former clerk of courts Mitch Needeleman is likely to go to trial; All Aboard Florida faces key funding and legal decisions; Melbourne could approve "game-changing" new housing downtown; President Trump will jolt NASA and defense contractors. (Photo: Illustration by Matt Reed)

Former clerk of courts Mitch Needeleman is likely to go to trial; All Aboard Florida faces key funding and legal decisions; Melbourne could approve “game-changing” new housing downtown; President Trump will jolt NASA and defense contractors.
(Photo: Illustration by Matt Reed)

Big stories are about to break on the Space Coast – a succession of news that will affect jobs, tax money, growth and development, and quality of life.

So, enough about what happened last year.

Here’s what’s going down in 2017, starting in January, along with my takes on what could happen.

Landmark decision on downtown

The Melbourne City Council will decide this month whether to approve an eight-story building with 171 modern apartments on New Haven Avenue, next door to the Henegar Center for Performing Arts.

Everyone involved calls it a potential breakthrough for the economy and culture of downtown. It is exactly the type of  “mixed use” the city’s redevelopment plan has called for, with housing above ground-floor shops and a restaurant, and “creative class” people living downtown 24-7.

The city would pay for parking and other improvements for the public around the $24 million project with a $1.85 million loan to developer Sam Zimmerman. New property tax revenue from the project would then pay off the loan.

The “Highline” project is now three years in the making. This style of development is way overdue in Brevard.

Corruption case goes to court

Nearly 3-1/2 years after his arrest on bribery and bid-tampering charges, former Brevard Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman may finally go to trial along with a lobbyist and contractor.

The trio is charged in an alleged kickback scheme in which a software company agreed to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Needelman’s 2012 campaign in exchange for a no-bid, $8.5 million contract to scan old court documents.

A judge in Sanford has kept a pretrial hearing set for Jan. 18.

Brevard taxpayers need to see justice done in this case.

All Aboard Florida on track? 

The controversial, privately run Miami-to-Orlando passenger rail service (via Brevard) had until Jan. 1 to sell tax-exempt bonds to investors to meet a deadline set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The proceeds would fund tracks and construction for the first phase of its high-speed Brightline trains, from Miami to West Palm Beach. A later private bond sale to raise more than $1 billion would fund a second phase, including tracks between Cocoa and Orlando where none exist today.

Although Brevard cities and Port Canaveral see opportunity in the short, quiet trains, politicians in Indian River and Martin counties have tied up the venture in the courts and regulatory system, trying to kill it with delays.

Will government let the market decide the future of rail? We’ll know in the next few weeks.

School board software showdown

In December, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn and the board of Canadian software contractor Harris School Systems both seemed prepared to quit a $5.9 million contract for business software that still doesn’t work.  After two years of free troubleshooting and legal negotiations, an end could come any week now.

Name a stakeholder in this mess — taxpayers, educators, the company, school board members — all would hurt from losing millions on a previous administration’s poorly vetted software deal. Not least of whom are school staffers who need 21st-century software to run payroll, purchasing, accounting and contracts for a district serving 74,000-students.

State, county action on lagoon

Joe Negron, the new Florida Senate president from the Treasure Coast, is now pitching a plan for the upcoming legislative session to stop discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the southern Indian River Lagoon.

Brevard’s legislative delegation has promised to deliver this spring on voters’ demands for dredging and funding for the sick estuary.

And Brevard County Commissioners are starting now on a 10-year, $300 million cleanup plan approved by voters in November.

To think that none of this was certain two months ago. Voters made all the difference.

Trump to jolt space, defense

Shortly after his Jan. 20 inauguration, President Donald Trump will get to work seeking a new NASA administrator. Most analysis I’ve read says he’ll pick someone who will make racing the Chinese and Russians to the moon a more urgent, interim priority over flying to Mars.

What that could mean to NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew-capsule — and, in turn, jobs and business on the Space Coast — is anyone’s guess. But Brevard’s economy can’t take another major space program cancellation from a third president in a row.

Slower to arrive in 2017, but just as significant, will be Trump and congressional Republicans’ vow to lift the years-old “sequestration” spending cap on defense budgets, a byproduct of Washington gridlock. That could reinvigorate sales at defense contractors such as Harris Corp., Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance. It also could bring better conditions for Air Force families.

Which is great as long as Trump stays reluctant to deploy our personnel, bombers and gear.

And there’s more news, coming fast in 2017:

  • State and Brevard County leaders will propose new ethics reforms to keep government honest.
  • State universities and Florida Tech will get serious about reaching America’s top tier by targeting dollars at new laboratories and star faculty.
  • Palm Bay could commit to a $9 million replacement of crumbling Malabar Road while pursuing a settlement with the contractor that built it.

All of these stories are coming fast. All are big decision points that require your watchfulness and leaders’ accountability.

Together, let’s demand the best for Brevard County in 2017.

See all Matt Reed columns and video

Contact Reed at Follow him at

When astronauts are on their first test flight aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will take them farther into the solar system than humanity has ever traveled before, their mission will be to confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space.

After an Orion test campaign that includes ground tests, systems demonstrations on the International Space Station, and uncrewed space test flights, this first crewed test flight will mark a significant step forward on NASA’s Journey to Mars.

This will be NASA’s first mission with crew in a series of missions in the proving ground, an area of space around the moon where crew can build and test systems needed to prepare for the challenge of missions to Mars.

The mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Florida as early as August 2021. Crew size will be determined closer to launch, but NASA plans to fly up to four astronauts in Orion for each human mission.

“Like every test flight, we will have test objectives for this mission both before and after we commit to going to the moon,” said Bill Hill, deputy associated administrator, Exploration Systems Development, NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s just like the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, which built up and demonstrated their capabilities over a series of missions. During this mission, we have a number of tests designed to demonstrate critical functions, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space.”

Leaving Earth

The mission plan for the flight is built around a profile called a multi-translunar injection (MTLI), or multiple departure burns, and includes a free return trajectory from the moon. Basically, the spacecraft will circle our planet twice while periodically firing its engines to build up enough speed to push it toward the moon before looping back to Earth.

After launch, the spacecraft and upper stage of the rocket will first orbit Earth twice to ensure its systems are working normally. Orion will reach a circular orbit at an altitude of 100 nautical miles and last 90 minutes. The move or burn to get the spacecraft into a specific orbit around a planet or other body in space is called orbital insertion.

Following the first orbit, the rocket’s powerful exploration upper stage (EUS) and four RL-10 engines will perform an orbital raise, which will place Orion into a highly elliptical orbit around our planet. This is called the partial translunar injection. This second, larger orbit will take approximately 24 hours with Orion flying in an ellipse between 500 and 19,000 nautical miles above Earth. For perspective, the International Space Station orbits Earth from about 250 miles above.

Once the integrated vehicle completes these two orbits, the EUS will separate from Orion and any payloads selected and mounted inside the rocket’s universal stage adapter will be released. The payloads will then fly on their own to conduct their unique missions.

After the EUS separation, the crew will do a unique test of Orion’s critical systems. They will gather and evaluate engineering data from their day-long orbit before using Orion’s service module to complete a second and final propulsion move called the translunar injection (TLI) burn. This second burn will put Orion on a path toward the moon, and will conclude the “multi-translunar injection” portion of the mission.

“Free” ride home

The TLI will send crew around the backside of the moon where they will ultimately create a figure eight before Orion returns to Earth. Instead of requiring propulsion on the return, the spacecraft will use the moon’s gravitational pull like a slingshot to bring Orion home, which is the free return portion of the trajectory. Crew will fly thousands of miles beyond the moon, which is an average of 230,000 miles beyond the Earth.

A flexible mission length will allow NASA to gather valuable imagery data during daylight for the launch, landing and recovery phases. It will take a minimum of eight days to complete the mission, and pending additional analysis, it may be extended up to 21 days to complete additional flight test objectives.

Two missions, two different trajectories

The agency is scheduled to test SLS and Orion together for the first time without crew over the course of about three weeks in late 2018. The MTLI will build upon testing that will be done in a distant lunar retrograde orbit, or DRO, for that first mission. The DRO will put Orion in a more challenging trajectory, and will be an opportunity to test the kind of maneuvers and environments the spacecraft will see on future exploration missions. The DRO will require additional propulsion moves throughout the trip, including a moon flyby and return trajectory burns.

“Between the DRO on our first flight, and the MTLI on the second flight, we will demonstrate the full range of capabilities SLS and Orion need to operate in deep space,” said Hill.

Once these first two test flights are completed, Hill added that NASA hopes to begin launching missions every year with crew, depending on budget and program performance.

NASA recently outlined its exploration objectives in deep space and grouped them into three categories: transportation, working in space, and staying healthy. The early missions in the proving ground are a critical step on the journey to learn more about the deep space environment and test the technologies the agency needs to eventually take humans to Mars.

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