Category: (17)

A subsidiary of L3 Communications Corp. (NYSE: LLL) won a multimillion-dollar contract on Nov. 28, with a large portion of the work to be done on Florida’s Space Coast.

L3 Interstate Electronics Corp., based in Anaheim, Calif., won a $45.4 million contract from the U.S. Navy for flight test instrumentation engineering services and support. Work will be performed in nine locations around the globe, but mostly in Cape Canaveral and California. The contract has an expected completion date of Aug. 1, 2020.

L3 also is hiring in Orlando, Melbourne and Cape Canaveral, with more than 20 mostly high-wage positions available, including a principal engineer, regional sales manager, enterprise solutions architect, configuration analyst, software developers, software architects and more. Interested candidates can find more information about the jobs on L3’s website.

L3 has scooped up several big contracts this year, such as a $28.3 million smart bomb contract in August.

Military contracts contribute to the local economy in the form of jobs and subcontractor opportunities, and Central Florida is a major player when it comes to defense contracts. The region snags about $4 billion in government contracts 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 Partnership.

Article By Matthew Richardson – Staff writer, Orlando Business Journal, Complete Article [ HERE ]

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sits inside Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston after having completed its cryogenic testing on Nov. 18, 2017. This marked the telescope's final cryogenic testing, and it ensured the observatory is ready for the frigid, airless environment of space. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope sits inside Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston after having completed its cryogenic testing on Nov. 18, 2017. This marked the telescope’s final cryogenic testing, and it ensured the observatory is ready for the frigid, airless environment of space. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

The vault-like, 40-foot diameter, 40-ton door of Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston was unsealed on November 18, signaling the end of cryogenic testing for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The historic chamber’s massive door opening brings to a close about 100 days of testing for Webb, a significant milestone in the telescope’s journey to the launch pad. The cryogenic vacuum test began when the chamber was sealed shut on July 10, 2017. Scientists and engineers at Johnson put Webb’s optical telescope and integrated science instrument module (OTIS) through a series of tests designed to ensure the telescope functioned as expected in an extremely cold, airless environment akin to that of space.

“After 15 years of planning, chamber refurbishment, hundreds of hours of risk-reduction testing, the dedication of more than 100 individuals through more than 90 days of testing, and surviving Hurricane Harvey, the OTIS cryogenic test has been an outstanding success,” said Bill Ochs, project manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The completion of the test is one of the most significant steps in the march to launching Webb.”

These tests included an important alignment check of Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments, to make sure all of the gold-plated, hexagonal segments acted like a single, monolithic mirror. This was the first time the telescope’s optics and its instruments were tested together, though the instruments had previously undergone cryogenic testing in a smaller chamber at Goddard. Engineers from Harris Space and Intelligence Systems, headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, worked alongside NASA personnel for the test at Johnson.

“The Harris team integrated Webb’s 18 mirror segments at Goddard and designed, built, and helped operate the advanced ground support and optical test equipment at Johnson,” said Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at Harris. “They were a key, enabling part of the successful Webb telescope testing team.”

The Webb telescope team persisted with the testing even when Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas on Aug. 25 as a category 4 hurricane before stalling over eastern Texas and weakening to a tropical storm, where it dropped as much as 50 inches of rain in and around Houston. Many Webb telescope team members at Johnson endured the historic storm, working tirelessly through overnight shifts to make sure Webb’s cryogenic testing was not interrupted. In the wake of the storm, some Webb team members, including team members from Harris, volunteered their time to help clean up and repair homes around the city, and distribute food and water to those in need.

“The individuals and organizations that have led us to this most significant milestone represent the very best of the best. Their knowledge, dedication, and execution to successfully complete the testing as planned, even while enduring Hurricane Harvey, cannot be overstated,” said Mark Voyton, James Webb Space Telescope optical telescope element and integrated science instrument manager at Goddard. “Every team member delivered critical knowledge and insight into the strategic and tactical planning and execution required to complete all of the test objectives, and I am honored to have experienced this phase of our testing with every one of them.”

Before cooling the chamber, engineers removed the air from it, which took about a week. On July 20, engineers began to bring the chamber, the telescope, and the telescope’s science instruments down to cryogenic temperatures — a process that took about 30 days. During cool down, Webb and its instruments transferred their heat to surrounding liquid nitrogen and cold gaseous helium shrouds in Chamber A. Webb remained at “cryo-stable” temperatures for about another 30 days, and on Sept. 27, the engineers began to warm the chamber back to ambient conditions (near room temperature), before pumping the air back into it and unsealing the door.

“With an integrated team from all corners of the country, we were able to create deep space in our chamber and confirm that Webb can perform flawlessly as it observes the coldest corners of the universe,” said Jonathan Homan, project manager for Webb’s cryogenic testing at Johnson. “I expect [Webb] to be successful, as it journeys to Lagrange point 2 [after launch] and explores the origins of solar systems, galaxies, and has the chance to change our understanding of our universe.”

While Webb was inside the chamber, insulated from both outside visible and infrared light, engineers monitored it using thermal sensors and specialized camera systems. The thermal sensors kept tabs on the temperature of the telescope, while the camera systems tracked the physical position of Webb to see how its components very minutely moved during the cooldown process. Monitoring the telescope throughout the testing required the coordinated effort of every Webb team member at Johnson.

“This test team spanned nearly every engineering discipline we have on Webb,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard. “In every area there was incredible attention to detail and great teamwork, to make sure we understand everything that happened during the test and to make sure we can confidently say Webb will work as planned in space.”

In space, the telescope must be kept extremely cold, in order to be able to detect the infrared light from very faint, distant objects. Webb and its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin (or about minus 387 Fahrenheit / minus 233 Celsius). Because the Webb telescope’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) must be kept colder than the other research instruments, it relies on a cryocooler to lower its temperature to less than 7 Kelvin (minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit / minus 266 degrees Celsius).

To protect the telescope from external sources of light and heat (like the Sun, Earth, and Moon), as well as from heat emitted by the observatory, a five-layer, tennis court-sized sunshield acts like a parasol that provides shade. The sunshield separates the observatory into a warm, sun-facing side (reaching temperatures close to 185 degrees Fahrenheit / 85 degrees Celsius) and a cold side (minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit / minus 240 degrees Celsius). The sunshield blocks sunlight from interfering with the sensitive telescope instruments.

Webb’s combined science instruments and optics next journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, where they will be integrated with the spacecraft element, which is the combined sunshield and spacecraft bus. Together, the pieces form the complete James Webb Space Telescope Observatory. Once fully integrated, the entire observatory will undergo more tests during what is called “observatory-level testing.” This testing is the last exposure to a simulated launch environment before flight and deployment testing on the whole observatory.

Webb is expected to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, in the spring of 2019.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific complement to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

For more information about the Webb telescope visit: or


Article written by AZoOptics, Complete Article [ HERE ]

The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 is scheduled for launch Saturday from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:47 p.m. EST. NASA-TV will cover the launch live.

The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 is launched Saturday from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:47 p.m. EST.

Update: JPSS-1 satellite was launched this past Saturday.

A weather prediction marvel when launched six years ago, it will soon relinquish its guardianship duties to a whippersnapper with similar, but supercharged, instruments meant to sharpen seven-day forecasts and save lives when Mother Nature hurls her worst.

The enhanced Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, is the first in a new series of polar orbiting planetary monitors.

Launched on Saturday the 18th of November, the $1.6 billion spacecraft can peer through clouds, see colors in thousands of different spectral bands, and get data to scientists twice per orbit — double the capability of the old Suomi.

The revolutionary GOES-16 weather satellite, which launched last year, stands as a motionless sentry 22,000 miles above Earth and with a focus on North America. The JPSS-1 is different in that it will cut lawn mower-like swaths around the globe just 500 miles from its surface.

“Weather doesn’t know borders,” said Joseph Pica, director of the National Weather Service’s Office of Observations. “The humidity and rainfall on the coast of China today could be over the Pacific Northwest in several days.”

Polar orbiters have circled the Earth for decades. The Suomi launch in 2011 marked a huge advancement in technologies, but it was only a test, helping scientists better understand how to use the equipment onboard and how the new data affected weather models.

A hefty amount — 85 percent — of the data that goes into global weather models comes from polar orbiters. And whereas GOES-16 looks deeply at what is happening now in the atmosphere or just upstream, the polar orbiter is key to medium-range forecasts with instruments that measure slices of the atmosphere similar to the information gathered by the daily weather balloon launches made at the nation’s 120 weather forecasting offices.

The JPSS-1, which will circle the globe 14 times per day, also will monitor sea-surface temperatures, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash spread and wildfires.

“Having the ability to look through the atmosphere vertically is important,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist at the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather. “It gives us a lot of information about how Earth is working.”

Pica said the Suomi satellite’s ability to look at longer-term weather patterns was key in forecasting the track and intensity of Hurricane Irma, which made landfall near Cudjoe Key on Sept. 10 as a Category 4 storm.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency a full five days ahead of Irma’s landfall, with President Donald Trump approving emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands a day later.

Six million Floridians evacuated ahead of the storm, a massive undertaking Pica said was possible because of the early forecasts.

“We’re really proud of what happened with Irma because of all the time and notice everyone got,” Pica said. “The track and intensity forecasts are largely based on polar orbiters.”

There have been misses also. In September 2015, when Suomi was operational, Tropical Storm Erika triggered a state of emergency as Florida found itself in a five-day forecast track that also called for Erika to strengthen to a hurricane. Instead, Erika fizzled over Hispaniola.

“The JPSS-1 brings new technology that will be able to significantly improve the confidence we can provide in the forecast,” Pica said.

The five key instruments on the JPSS-1 include an ozone mapper, infrared imager, an infrared sounder (which measures temperature and moisture content in the atmosphere), a microwave sounder to measure radiation, and a radiometer to collect information on snow, clouds, fog, fire, smoke and dust.

The Melbourne-based Harris Corp. built the Cross-track Infrared Sounder, which slices up the atmosphere to measure temperature and moisture at different elevations.

Harris Chief Solutions Engineer Ron Glumb said a similar instrument is on the Suomi.

“The one flying now is very good already, the one on JPSS will be even better,” Glumb said.

The JPSS-1 launched Saturday from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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Article by Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post, Complete Article [ HERE ]

The Space Coast has been buzzing with activity this year. But aerospace officials have started to worry that the industry's talent pipeline could be in trouble if they don't address it now. That led to a two-day summit at Harris Corporation in Palm Bay. (Craig Bailey / AP)

The Space Coast has been buzzing with activity this year. But aerospace officials have started to worry that the industry’s talent pipeline could be in trouble if they don’t address it now. That led to a two-day summit at Harris Corporation in Palm Bay. (Craig Bailey / AP)

PALM BAY — Space industry officials say bolstering the industry’s future workforce to offset an expected wave of retirements must become a priority, or some firms will be left scrambling for workers.

The talent pool has attracted newer companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, which creates informal hiring competition with legacy companies long established in Central Florida.

But the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast found last year that 61.9 percent of all engineers in Brevard were 45 or older, meaning a majority could retire in the next decade or two — and slow innovation.

So building the future talent pipeline, a challenge that also applies to other STEM-related fields, remains a major obstacle.

Some companies bet on early exposure to space-related curriculum and partnerships with schools to reach students as early as kindergarten.

The move would demonstrate potential careers to students early and beef up the industry’s sustainability, Lockheed Martin’s Steven Botwinik said.

“Our goal is to inspire that STEM workforce because without it, we all fall,” said Botwinik, the company’s director of advanced programs for its Orlando-based Missiles and Fire Control division. “If it is not there for all of us, none of us will succeed.”

Space firms last year employed 70,500 workers in Florida, according to Aerospace Industries Association numbers. The total represents the fifth-most of any state in the U.S., behind Washington, Texas, Michigan and California.

Some efforts to broaden the workforce target students between kindergarten and sixth grade. But experts say students should be reached directly by third grade to ensure attracting future workers.

One advantage the space industry has is the “wow” factor that can grab kids’ imaginations early, said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida chief of strategic alliances.

“At that age, it’s all space and dinosaurs,” he said. “You have the opportunity there to hook them.” The challenge, he said, is ensuring meaningful action follows.

Matching that early contact with a clear illustration of possible aerospace careers could grow the workforce, said Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the University of Central Florida’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“They need to get some of the personal attention they desire,” he said. “They need to know what they will be doing when they graduate.”

Georgiopoulos sat on a panel at a two-day summit at Harris Corporation’s Palm Bay headquarters, where hundreds of educators, lawmakers and industry leaders shared ideas last week about how to bolster the aerospace workforce.

“The issue of attracting talent isn’t work content, work environment or pay,” Harris CEO William Brown said. “The challenge is communicating in a more compelling way the great work we do and marketing it better.”

An aging workforce and a lack of replacements has been called a “challenging situation forecast to worsen in the next decade” by the AIA.

“We need to get more people into the talent pipeline,” said Robin Thurman, AIA’s director of workforce and industrial base development.

But space companies often require highly specialized skills and some positions include high-level security clearance. She said that the wait for those clearances in some cases last up to a year — during which workers might consider alternate options.

The answer could be industry leaders using their political clout to encourage more funding, educators at the summit said.

“We need to expose these children to different fields so they can better make decisions of where they want to take their careers,” said Patricia Breeding, career development coordinator at Orange County Public Schools.

Lockheed Martin, which employs more than 7,000 people in Central Florida, partnered with Orange County Public Schools in 2015 on a $2 million grant that helped the district develop training programs under the Project Lead the Way banner. The company has also created a national education program known as Generation Beyond, which plays on the company’s efforts to reach Mars and brings space-related curriculum to schools nationwide.

Harris, meanwhile, has contributed $22 million to educational institutions conducting STEM-related education.

“They are the ones that will drive this,” Breeding said. “If I have [Harris CEO William] Brown come into a high school and say, ‘I’m a CEO,’ the kids will listen more as opposed to if teachers say it.”

Got a news tip? or 407-420-5256; Twitter, @marcosantana

Article by Marco Santana, Orlando Sentinel, Complete Article [ HERE ]

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the U.S. government's secret Zuma mission stand vertical on Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. (Photo: SpaceX)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the U.S. government’s secret Zuma mission stand vertical on Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A.
(Photo: SpaceX)

Could a secret U.S. government spacecraft be bound for a rendezvous with a spy satellite or even the International Space Station?

Little is known about the mission called Zuma that is awaiting launch from Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX put the mission on hold last week to review an issue that came up in tests of Falcon nose cones, and no new launch date had been set as of Saturday.

The mission’s name probably has nothing to do with South African President Jacob Zuma, in a nod to Elon Musk’s roots in that country, or with Zuma the chocolate lab from the children’s cartoon “Paw Patrol,” as some have guessed or kidded.

But speculation about one intriguing scenario would link Zuma to another classified national security mission SpaceX launched earlier this year for the National Reconnaissance Office.

To be clear: The NRO has not confirmed any involvement with Zuma, while the spy agency has disclosed five other launches this year.

Zuma’s unusual northeasterly trajectory into a low Earth orbit, however, looks similar to the NRO mission a Falcon 9 launched from KSC on May 1, labeled NROL-76.

Amateur satellite trackers specializing in classified missions later detected some surprising activity by that spacecraft, which in orbit was labeled USA 276.

On June 3, the spacecraft approached within about four miles of the ISS — just barely outside its imaginary safety zone — and circled the orbiting research complex occupied by six astronauts.

Over the next two days it remained within 600 to 1,200 miles while a pair of unmanned cargo ships came and went from the outpost.

The June 4 departure of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft was a surprise, occurring a month ahead of schedule. A SpaceX Dragon arrived June 5.

The close encounters suggested the NRO mission, led by Ball Aerospace, might be testing technologies for observing the rendezvous and grappling of spacecraft in low Earth orbit.

Military planners have increasingly voiced concerns about the potential for Russian and Chinese satellites to approach and disable critical American spacecraft. The Air Force in recent years has launched two pairs of satellites designed to track threats in much higher geosynchronous orbits, where high-value communications, reconnaissance, weather and missile warning satellites fly.

Or was the NRO mission’s proximity to the space station and the flurry of activity there nothing more than a series coincidences, after multiple launch delays?

Politically, it’s difficult to believe the NRO would have flown so close to the manned ISS, a symbol of international cooperation and peaceful uses of space, by accident.

“If the flyby was intentional, one has to wonder if targeting a high-profile object like the ISS was meant to send a signal,” wrote Marco Langbroek, a satellite tracker and member of the astronomy department at Leiden University in the Netherlands, in a June article in “The Space Review.”

Whether intentional or not, Langbroek concluded, the early June events were “really weird.”

If the Zuma launch, which was contracted by Northrop Grumman, had happened Thursday or Friday, Langbroek noted that the NRO’s USA 276 spacecraft would have flown over Cape Canaveral near the launch window.

That would have placed Zuma, which appears headed for a similar orbit inclined about 50 degrees relative to the equator, according to publicly available information, close to USA 276 once in orbit.

Observations post-launch will attempt to confirm if Zuma performs an orbital dance with USA 276, the ISS, or both.

Or if it ends up in a very different orbit that suggests an entirely different mission.

“I readily admit, this all to a high degree remains speculation and wishful thinking of course,” Langbroek wrote to fellow satellite trackers of the potential connection between the Zuma and NRO missions. “We’ll see what happens. But I found it curious enough to draw attention to it.”

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

2017 was the busiest year ever at one popular cruise port in Florida. Port Canaveral has announced a new record for the port’s cruise operations in 2017 with more than 4.5 million cruise passenger movements during the fiscal year.

Total cruise passengers, which includes multi-day passengers coupled with one-day cruise passengers, totaled 4,520,229 in fiscal year FY2017, up 6.4% from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017. Multi-day passengers totaled 4,234,545 in FY2017 up 7.1% over the previous year hitting an all-time high number of passengers.

Captain John Murray, Port CEO, gave the following statement: “Port Canaveral is proving to be the Port of choice for more cruise travelers year after year. Our focus on providing quality service and commitments we have made to improve and expand our infrastructure ensures our cruise partners can deliver an exceptional customer experience at our Port, which provides increased jobs and business opportunities in our community.”

Port Canaveral is the second busiest cruise port in the world, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and is considered a leading homeport for the world’s largest cruise lines. Port Canaveral hosts Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International, as well as numerous port-of-call vessels from the world’s cruise lines.

Article by, Complete Article [ HERE ]

Korea Aerospace Industries has selected Harris Corporation to provide carriage and release systems for the next-generation Korea Fighter-Experimental (KF-X) programme, expanding the company’s presence among new customers and aircraft platforms in Asia.

The Korea Aerospace Industries KF-X jet is a programme to develop an advanced multirole fighter for the Republic of Korea air force.

“The KF-X aircraft represents a new strategic customer and fighter development platform for Harris in the Asian market,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Harris Electronic Systems. “This selection reaffirms our position as the supplier of choice worldwide for proven, leading edge carriage and release solutions.”

The company will supply its BRU-47 and BRU-57 release systems, which are currently fielded on numerous aircraft including the F-15E, F-16 and the F-22A. The BRU-47 single store carrier, known for its reliability and ease of maintenance, also reduces the time needed for loading stores using Harris’ patented sway-brace technology – which minimises rack sway due to aircraft manoeuvres and munition release. The BRU-57 is a smart-weapon-enabled, twin store carrier that doubles the payload capacity of aircraft without modifying any hardware – providing for a wide array of payload configurations.

Article by AeroAustraliaMag, Complete Article [ HERE ]

KAI selects Harris payload carriage and release systems for KFX

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has selected Harris Corporation to supply bomb rack units (BRUs) for South Korea’s next-generation Korea Fighter Experimental (KFX) development programme, the Melbourne, Florida-based company announced on 14 November.

Harris said in a statement that it will provide the BRU-47 and BRU-57 release systems, which are already fielded on United States Air Force (USAF) and international multirole combat aircraft including the US-made Boeing F-15E Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor platforms.

The company describes the 14/30-inch BRU-47 single store carrier as a reliable and versatile system that incorporates its patented sway-brace technology. This feature, it claimed, minimises rack sway caused by aircraft manoeuvres and munition release as well as eases the loading of stores in challenging situations by eliminating the need to tighten individual screw jacks to precise torque values.

Article by Jane’s IHS Jane’s International Defence Review, Complete Article [ HERE ]

Northrop Grumman's little-known recon airplane program will be crucial to the company's financial success.

Northrop Grumman’s little-known recon airplane program will be crucial to the company’s financial success.

Major defense contractors earned big contracts with work in Central Florida/SpaceCoast, and all of them are hiring dozens — even hundreds — of local workers.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Northrop Grumman Corp: The Falls Church, Va.-based company won a $66.3 million contract with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency on Nov. 16. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Melbourne will deliver aircraft power amplifier modules, which is equipment used for ground and airborne communications. The contract has a Sept. 30, 2021, completion date.
  • Northrop Grumman: The company’s Melbourne unit landed another contract on Nov. 16, this one worth $15 million with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. The contract is to deliver aircraft high-voltage power supply. The contract has a Sept. 30, 2020, completion date. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) has more than 400 jobs available in Melbourne. Its career website lists 150 job titles as being open, but many of those titles will have multiple hires. A few job titles are engineer material process, software engineer and engineer electrical.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.: The Bethesda, Md.-based defense firm won a $44.1 million contract with the U.S. Air Force on Nov. 14 to produce intelligent test instrumentation kits to be used on the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, which Lockheed Martin also designs and builds. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) also is hiring more than 900 workers in Central Florida — mostly in Orlando, where the company has two major locations with 7,000 workers. Job titles include software engineer, cybersecurity analyst, machinist, multimedia designer and more.
  • General Dynamics Mission Systems: The Falls Church, Va-based company won a $14.7 million contract from the U.S. Navy for sustainment of the U.S. and United Kingdom fire control and weapon control systems and equipment. Work for the contract will take place in seven locations around the world, including Cape Canaveral. The contract has a September 2023 completion. General Dynamics has 10 locations listed on its website.

Military contracts contribute to the local economy in the form of jobs and subcontractor opportunities, and Central Florida is a major player when it comes to defense contracts. The region snags about $4 billion in government contracts 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 Partnership.

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

The work involves cutting-edge technology.

It’s challenging and rewarding.

The jobs pay well, often pushing over six figures a year.

And yet leaders in the aerospace and defense industries are sounding the alarm that more needs to be done to ensure there’s a steady stream of workers to fill a void left by what’s expected to be a wave of retirements in the near future in engineering and high-tech manufacturing fields.

And there is another wrinkle. Competition used to be among sector players,  with Northrop Grumman cherry picking from Boeing who was luring engineers from Harris and so on.

Now, companies like Amazon and Apple are putting themselves in the mix, attracting talent that might otherwise go to aerospace and defense sectors — the bread-and-butter industries on the Space Coast.

“To satisfy projected demand and offset retirements and normal attrition, we need to hire more than 5,000 engineers over the next five years,” said William Brown, chairman, president and chief executive of Harris Corp. “It’s the reason we nearly doubled our college recruiting this year, and we expect to increase it again next year.”

Brown’s comment on Wednesday came at the kick-off of a two-day summit put on by the Aerospace Industries Association. The Melbourne-headquartered Harris, which has 17,000 employees across the globe, hosted the summit at its Technology Center in Palm Bay.

About 200 people attended the summit’s opening, including government officials, business leaders and educators from across Florida.

The general consensus among aerospace and defense leaders was that companies need to do more to engage people early on —as in grade school — in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.

“Our industry has great potential to create new high-skill, high-wage jobs, but it takes the right kind of people to create the innovations and ideas that keep our industry vibrant long into the future,” said  Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO David F. Melcher.

The aerospace and defense industry employs more than 70,000 people in Florida and accounts for approximately 10 percent of the state’s exports and 1.3 percent of its GDP.

During a panel discussion Wednesday morning, industry leaders said more progress needs to be made advancing women and minorities in engineering careers, and getting workers involved in other areas, including cybersecurity and big data analytics.

If there was one major concern presented Wednesday it came during a panel discussion involving Brown, Rick Matthews, vice president of global operations of Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.; Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Missile Systems division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security; and Alan Pellegrini, president and CEO of Thales USA Inc.

Pellegrini worried about the mediocre — if not downright softness — in math and science performance by students in schools in the United States vs. other countries, particularly those in Asia.

He also worried about commitments to diversity.

“If you look at broader statistics, where do U.S. students rank on a national scale in terms of science and math?” Pellegrini asked. “It’s poor. We’re in the middle of the pack. If we look at the statistics around diversity, we see that there’s marginal progress at best.

“What are we doing wrong?”

On a positive note, research presented Wednesday by Aviation Week Network showed:

  • Most of the hires in aerospace and defense are taking place in the Southwest United States (15.1 percent), the Southeast (13.6 percent) and the Northeast (12.7 percent.)
  • The universities with the highest number of grads hired in the aerospace and defense sectors were the University of Central Florida (No. 1), the University of Florida (No. 2) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 3.)

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

Article by Wayne T. Price, Florida Today, Complete Article [ HERE ]


A once-empty parking lot at Northrop Grumman Corp.’s top secret aircraft plant in Palmdale is now jammed with cars that pour in during the predawn hours.

More than a thousand new employees are working for the time being in rows of temporary trailers, a dozen tan-colored tents and a vast assembly hangar at the desert site near the edge of urban Los Angeles County.

It is here that Northrop is building the Air Force’s new B-21 bomber, a stealthy bat-winged jet that is being designed to slip behind any adversary’s air defense system and deliver devastating airstrikes for decades to come. The Pentagon is aiming to buy 100 of the bombers by the mid-2030s for at least $80 billion, though the exact amount is classified.

Sources: Mapzen, OpenStreetMap

Northrop won the bomber contract in 2015, but the pace of activity is ramping up sharply under an Air Force budget that has reached $2 billion for this fiscal year.

Construction crews are getting ready to add 1 million square feet to the plant, a 50% increase over what is already a huge facility that is protected by razor wire-topped fences, electronic sensors and military air space surveillance, according to interviews and government documents.

Artist rendering of Air Force’s new B-21 bomber.
Artist rendering of Air Force’s new B-21 bomber. Northrop Gruman

The project marks a sharp turnaround in the fortunes of the Southern California aerospace industry, which has been atrophying since the end of the Cold War. It was widely assumed that the region would never again be home to a large aircraft manufacturing program and now it has one of the largest in modern history. The program is breathing new life into an industry that once defined the Southern California economy.

The bomber — dubbed the “Raider” — is expected to become Northrop’s largest cash cow, which could run for two decades if it does not encounter technical or political setbacks. But it will be competing with other nuclear and nonnuclear modernization programs for limited defense funds — a cutthroat political contest.

Northrop has 3,000 employees at the Palmdale plant and is still hiring at a rapid clip. By late 2019, the operation will have 5,200 employees at the site, Kevin Mitchell, deputy vice president of global operations, recently told a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce meeting.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III lands at Palmdale Regional Airport during recent exercise flights. Northrop Grumman (background) was awarded the new B-21 bomber contract in 2015.
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III lands at Palmdale Regional Airport during recent exercise flights. Northrop Grumman (background) was awarded the new B-21 bomber contract in 2015. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

The facility also produces Northrop’s high-altitude surveillance drones, the Global Hawk for the Air Force and the closely related Triton for the Navy, as well as the center fuselage for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Company officials declined to be interviewed on the B-21, citing Defense Department restrictions.

The Palmdale factory is part of the Air Force’s massive Plant 42 operation, where some of the nation’s most secret warplanes have been built, including Northrop’s flying wing B-2 bomber.

The B-21 program is not just secret but “special access,” setting a much higher bar on who can get a clearance and how data are stored, among much else. An executive conference room at the plant is actually a high security windowless vault, where a massive conference table is surrounded by three dozen leather chairs and the walls are adorned with large photographs of the company’s long line of weapons. No cellphones are allowed in the room.

Heavy bombers, particularly those capable of carrying nuclear weapons, have been among the most controversial military projects in U.S. history. When the B-1 bomber was rolled out, pacifists attempted to throw themselves under its wheels. The Northrop B-2 stealth bomber gave Congress sticker shock with its $1-billion-per-plane manufacturing cost.

Ally J. Levine

By contrast, the B-21 so far is slamming through the political system with few obstacles with a projected cost of $550 million per plane, translating to production costs alone of $55 billion, according to staff at the House Armed Services Committee. The dollar amount for research and development is highly classified, Under Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan said in an in interview.

The service is committed to releasing that cost information as soon as possible, Donovan said, “but we have to balance that with protecting the capabilities of our aircraft against potential adversaries.”

Even more highly classified are the technical details of the future bomber.

A crude drawing of the plane released by the Air Force seems to resemble the company’s B-2 bomber, but Donovan and others say the new plane is not a derivative but a “clean sheet” design. It is supposed to carry nuclear weapons, though the Air Force does not plan to certify it for such missions until two years after it first becomes operational, a cost-saving decision that the House Armed Services Committee criticized in a 2013 report.

Evading more capable future radar systems is a singular requirement. When the B-2 was built, some experts claimed it looked no bigger than a hummingbird on a radar screen. The B-21 would have to be even stealthier. The preliminary design of the bomber’s stealth characteristics was “investigated in detail against current and anticipated threats,” according to a Congressional Research Service report released in June.

The plane will be operated either by an onboard crew or autonomously, the report said. Without a crew, the bomber could linger much longer over targets, requiring fewer sorties and holding an enemy hostage much longer. Unlike the B-2, it is planned as part of a “family of systems,” implying that it would fly with other aircraft or weapons systems, though government officials declined to say anything about it.

A B-2 bomber refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean. The B-21 will be designed to be even stealthier than the B-2.
A B-2 bomber refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean. The B-21 will be designed to be even stealthier than the B-2. AFP/Getty Images

The B-21 will benefit from much more sophisticated, faster and cheaper computer systems, as well as software, said Don Hicks, who was Northrop’s senior vice president for research during the B-2 era and later served as the Pentagon’s research and engineering chief. He said Northrop developed crucial technology in its X-47B drone, an experimental jet that made history in 2013 with the first autonomous landing on an aircraft carrier.

“The B-21 is much better than the B-2,” Hicks said. “It has a lot of capability built into it that the B-2 doesn’t have.”

The B-21 is being marketed as a replacement for the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet, which dates back to the 1960s for the B-52 and the 1980s for the B-1. The Air Force says potential adversaries are improving their air defense systems and it has to find new capabilities to ensure it can hold them at risk. Even if the Air Force gets all 100 bombers now planned, it will end up with a smaller fleet than it has now.

The Pentagon fears a repeat of the B-2 bomber program, in which the nation invested $20 billion in research and development with a plan to buy 132 airplanes. The plan’s cost ballooned and the Cold War ended just before production began, leaving even the Defense Department questioning why it was needed. In the end, the Air Force got only 21 aircraft, which forced it to keep using the older bombers.

The B-21 also faces a tough road ahead because of competing programs. The Pentagon has plans to update every leg of the nuclear weapons complex, including warheads, missiles and submarines, at an estimated cost of $1.2 trillion, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate released Oct. 31.

Source: U.S. Air Force

The B-21 is getting an early start, but some other programs are scheduled just when the B-21 would enter production in the mid-2020s and could challenge the bomber for funding.

“They don’t have enough money,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons analyst with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “Building everything at once is the best way to build nothing.”

Unlike many strategic weapons systems, such as submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers are in use daily on missions in the Middle East. More than a decade of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have made clear that bombers play a big role in limited conventional war.

The ultimate success of the program will depend on continued government support and cost controls. The Air Force considers the bomber one of its top three priorities, along with the F-35 and a new aerial refueling tanker.

So far, the program has received all the money that President Obama and President Trump have requested. Last year, two dozen members of the House — a colorful political mix of conservatives and liberals — sent a letter to appropriation committee leaders asking them to maintain funding for the bomber.

The only grumbling has surfaced from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has pressed for more disclosure about the cost of research and development. The Air Force has resisted, arguing it would disclose the scope of the technology development underway.

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To help keep Northrop on schedule, the Air Force is managing the B-21 through its Washington, D.C.-based Rapid Capabilities Office, which is intended to cut red tape, said Donovan, the undersecretary. The Air Force is requiring that any design changes, which often slow progress and increase costs, be approved at a higher level than is typical.

Building bombers under the black budget is not unprecedented. The U.S. government didn’t lift the veil on the B-2 program until a decade after it had begun, revealing one of the largest weapons development efforts since the Manhattan Project produced the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

The Air Force and Northrop went to great lengths to conceal even the smallest detail of the B-2 program. Many suppliers had no idea they were making parts for the bomber. The government created dummy companies that ordered the parts, which were often picked up in the middle of the night by unmarked trucks.

Northrop made a bold decision a decade ago when it decided against teaming up with either Lockheed Martin Corp. or Boeing Co., going it alone. That led to Boeing and Lockheed, the nation’s two largest defense contractors, teaming up against Northrop. When they lost that competition, it left Northrop with 100% of the prime contract profits, not having to share it with a partner.

“I said we don’t need either of them,” said a person who was involved.

In addition to the major work in Palmdale, parts of all sizes will pour from factories in California and across the nation. The bomber, like other big-ticket aircraft programs before it, will probably spur new housing and commercial development. Mitchell, Northrop’s vice president, told the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce that the company is working with local leaders to make sure employees have access to services and amenities they want.

Sources: Mapzen, OpenStreetMap

The company, for example, is working with Antelope Valley College, which recently developed an eight-week training program for aircraft fabrication and assembly, said Liz Diachun, a college spokeswoman. The vast majority of the college’s aircraft fabrication graduates go to Northrop. The college even has a bachelor’s degree program with a course on the theory of “low observable” technologies.

Northrop’s website has 272 jobs posted for Palmdale, including flight test engineers, machinists, aircraft electricians, composite technicians and low-observables mechanics. Many postings have multiple openings.

But the B-21 will probably not have the economic power of past defense programs. The industry is more efficient now, with production using more robots and other automated machinery. In 1992 when Northrop’s B-2 bomber was near its peak, the company had 9,000 workers at a now-shuttered plant in Pico Rivera and an additional 3,000 in Palmdale. The entire B-2 program employed 40,000 across the nation.

The mix is also changing. In the B-21, Palmdale already has as many workers as the B-2 and is headed higher, suggesting that its role will include not only final assembly but a significant amount of parts or process work. Although the plane is being assembled at Palmdale, the Northrop program office is located at another major company aircraft facility in Melbourne, Fla.

Manufacturing engineering work is being planned in Palmdale, while Melbourne serves as a design center. A longtime aerospace industry veteran said Northrop has also opened a modest B-21 engineering office at its plant in El Segundo, because it is challenged to find all the engineers it needs in Florida.

Mike Blades, a securities analyst with Frost & Sullivan, said he believes that about 30% to 50% of the Air Force’s $2-billion bomber budget for fiscal 2018 is flowing through Northrop.

“By far, it is going to be the largest source of their funding,” Blades said. “It is going to be a big deal for a long time. You are talking $2 billion and they are just in research and development.”

Investors have taken close note. Since the company was awarded the contract in October 2015, Northrop shares have nearly doubled, outpacing industry rivals over the same period.

Northrop Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Bedingfield earlier this year told securities analysts that the company’s restricted activities, which refer to secret contracts such as the B-21, made up more than 20% of sales last year.

“I will tell you that it is a nicely growing part of our business,” he said.

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