The Air Force has opened a “polar corridor” that would allow certain rockets to launch spacecraft from Cape Canaveral into north-south orbits circling the poles, a development that could bring more launches to Florida.

Polar launches historically have been flown from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s Central Coast, where a small number of missions each year fly south over the Pacific Ocean toward Antarctica.

Cape launches most often head east to send satellites on their way around the equator. Polar trajectories have been avoided since a 1960 Navy launch inadvertently dropped a Thor rocket stage on Cuba, reportedly killing a cow.

But now, says Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing, “We can shoot south.”

No near-term missions plan to use the new polar corridor, but over time it could lead to more Cape launches and consolidation of the nation’s launch infrastructure.

Both the military and commercial launchers could save money by no longer having to maintain and staff infrastructure sites on both coasts.

“Adding polar missions to the Cape’s manifest might be very attractive to the Air Force, especially as they consider a new round of base closures in the near future,” said Edward Ellegood, an analyst at Saalex Solutions, a range operations contractor at Kennedy Space Center.

“This would also be a boon for the commercial launch industry in Florida,” said Ellegood. “United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Blue Origin could reduce the costs associated with operating facilities and deploying personnel to the West Coast for only a few missions per year.”

The Eastern Range began analyzing options for polar launches as a wild fire raged near Vandenberg in September 2016. The fire damaged power and communications lines and delayed a commercial mission by two months.

How could the 45th Space Wing support national security missions if fires closed Vandenberg for 12, 18 or 24 months, Monteith asked his safety and flight analysts?

First, they looked north, but Newfoundland proved too difficult an obstacle. Turning their attention south, a path materialized.

“They crunched numbers for about eight months, and I am confident we can go south,” said Monteith.

Monteith did not detail the precise trajectory, but said it involved “a little jog shortly off the pad” to turn south once offshore, “and then we’d skirt Miami.”

The rocket’s first stage would drop safely before reaching Cuba, he said. The second stage would be so high up by the time it flew over the island that no special permissions would be required.

There is one condition: southbound rockets must be equipped with automated flight termination systems, in which onboard computers command rockets to self-destruct if they should veer off course.

Otherwise, exhaust plumes could disturb the destruct signals sent by traditional systems, requiring down range tracking equipment that the Air Force has eliminated over the years.

Today, only SpaceX’s single-stick Falcon 9 rocket could fly the polar corridor, and the company has no stated plans to use it, even as it is midway through an eight-launch campaign from Vandenberg for Iridium Communications.

But every big rocket is expected to be equipped with automated destruct systems within a decade. United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan, Blue Origin’s New Glenn — both still in development — and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy might be cleared to fly south within a few years.

Blue Origin, which has a contract to launch OneWeb satellites into polar orbits in the 2020s, does not yet have a Vandenberg launch site and says those missions could launch from the Cape.

“New Glenn has the capability and performance to launch customers into polar orbit from Florida,” the company said in a statement. “We are working diligently to finish our launch site at Launch Complex 36 so we can meet the market demands of commercial, civil, and national security customers from the Space Coast.”

Brian Holz, CEO of OneWeb Satellites, which next year will start building satellites at KSC, said a polar launch option from Florida would benefit rocket and satellite providers.

“From a OneWeb Satellites perspective, having the satellite manufacturing located next door to a launch facility that has such flexibility would be a huge benefit,” he said.

Beyond satellite launches, the corridor could open opportunities to rendezvous with the International Space Station as it flew to the north or south.

KSC’s Launch Services Program, which launches NASA’s planetary probes and science missions, said it was not involved in the trajectory analysis and that it was up to rocket companies to select launch sites.

The Cape’s southern corridor may be about more than geography.

Though Vandenberg typically hosts just a few orbital rocket launches a year (but eight in 2017), getting on its schedule can be a challenge. The base must prioritize test flights of Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and Missile Defense Agency interceptors, and is not as accustomed to quick turnarounds between launches.

In addition, Monteith said his counterpart leading the 30th Space Wing does not enjoy the same level of support found on the Space Coast.

“He was talking about things that I have no experience with whatsoever, and that is almost an adversarial relationship with the local community and state on bringing in new business and fostering commercial growth,” Monteith said at a Dec. 12 transportation conference at Port Canaveral. “They are at a crossroads.”

Monteith, on the other hand, is touting improvements that would enable up to 48 Cape launches annually within five years, up from 19 this year.

Of course, the Cape also is vulnerable to natural disasters. The 45th Space Wing is still cleaning up damage from a second hurricane in as many years.

Whatever operational challenges exist at Vandenberg, Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications, which just completed its fourth launch of the year from Vandenberg with SpaceX and preparing for four more next year, said he’s happy with the site.

He praised Monteith’s can-do, customer-focused attitude, but said he’s not looking for alternatives. Plus, he joked, the Vandenberg area offers some post-launch advantages.

“I’m not a complainer about California,” he said. “And I’ve got to tell you, they’ve got awesome vineyards. The celebrations afterwards are fantastic.”

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or jdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FlameTrench.

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

Embraer talks about its future in Brevard County WAYNE T. PRICE/FLORIDA TODAY

And maybe it’s not all that surprising considering some of the other recent aerospace acquisitions.

Airbus SE not long ago announced a deal to acquire a majority stake in a jetliner program operated by Bombardier Inc. of Canada. Bombardier is the second-largest maker of regional jets.

And in September, United Technologies Corp. agreed to purchase Rockwell Collins Inc. for $23 billion. Also, Northrop Grumman Corp. is planning to buy defense contractor Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion.

Embraer, which is headquartered in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil’s state of Sao Paulo, has a major presence in Brevard. Northrop Grumman and Rockwell Collins also have significant operations on the Space Coast.

“From 30,000 feet we view this as an industry shift not unlike what we have seen within the auto industry,” John Boyd, a principal with the Princeton, New Jersey-based aerospace consulting firm, The Boyd Co.

“That is to say, a shift of the center of gravity from Rust Belt and Northeast states like Michigan, Ohio, and Connecticut to more cost-efficient and Right-To-Work Southeast states like South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.”

A Boeing-Embraer deal would have a significant impact on Brevard County, where Embraer has substantial business jet assembly operations at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

“Look for Brevard County’s Embraer facilities to be a beneficiary of this merger, not to mention, the possibility that United Technologies acquisition of Rockwell Collins will lead to a new site search for the division headquarters of the combined unit,” Boyd said.

Embraer has a global customer care center and an Engineering and Technology Center at the Melbourne airport. In Titusville, Embraer recently opened Embraer Aero Seatings Technologies or E.A.S.T. In all Embraer employs about 850 people in Brevard County.

Of course, much depends on leaders in Brazil, which has what’s called a “golden share” interest Embraer. Essentially that share gives the Brazilian government veto power over transactions like the one being proposed by Boeing.

The Wall Street Journal, which on Thursday first reported the Boeing/Embraer talks, wrote “it’s far from guaranteed the government would sign off” on the deal.

Although an outright buyout has not been ruled out, sources close to the deal saying t a partnership deal is on the table. One of the options being reported in Brazil’s press includes a joint venture that would enable the companies to cross-sell their complementary lineups of commercial jets and negotiate better deals with suppliers.

Brazilian news agencies on Friday quoted Brazil’s President Michel Temer as saying that while he was opposed to allowing Boeing to take control of Embraer, he would welcome new foreign investment in the domestic planemaker.

Boyd noted any deal will enjoy a much smoother ride in the United States because President Donald Trump seems friendlier to major merger-and-acquisition activity.

 “The move would enlarge Boeing’s relatively modest footprint in Florida and serve it well from the standpoint of gaining additional representation in Congress from Florida’s 27 members – third highest number among the 50 states,” Boyd said.

“Politics and Washington are playing greater roles in corporate site selection, especially in highly regulated industries like aerospace.  Sen. Bill Nelson has been a strong advocate for the aerospace in Florida over the years.”

Contact Price at 321-242-3658

or wprice@floridatoday.com.

Twitter: @Fla2dayBiz

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

Melbourne-based Harris Corporation headquarters (Paul Brinkmann / Orlando Sentinel)

Melbourne-based Harris Corporation headquarters (Paul Brinkmann / Orlando Sentinel)

A couple of global defense firms with a strong local presence won three contracts on Dec. 18 with a combined total value of more than $1 billion — and most of the work will take place in Orlando and Melbourne, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.’s (NYSE: LMT) Missiles & Fire Control facility in west Orlando won a $961 million contract from the U.S Air Force. The defense firm will sustain and upgrade its fleet of 683 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods. The contract has a Dec. 18, 2022, completion date.

The same Orlando unit also landed a $65 million contract from the U.S. Army on Dec. 19 to support logistic services for the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensors program. All of the work will be performed in Orlando and has a Dec. 31, 2018, completion date.

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control unit has more than 4,000 workers in Orlando building support and weapon equipment for various military-grade vehicles like the F-35 jet fighter.

Melbourne-based defense firm Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS) won a $16 million contract on Dec. 18 from the U.S. Navy to produce and deliver 65 distributed targeting system kits and 22 operational bulk data cartridges for the F/A-18 fighter jet and EA-18G jet plane. All of the work will take place in Melbourne, where Harris Corp. has hundreds of engineers. The contract has a May 2020 completion date.

Both companies are hiring hundreds of workers, too. Harris Corp. has more than 200 open positions listed on its website and Lockheed Martin has nearly 800 available jobs.

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

Edgar Munoz and his team believe the future of drones will involve sky taxis, packages being dropped off, security purposes and more — all without human control, totally autonomous. And their idea isn’t too farfetched, according to studies.

Between now and 2020, the drone industry is forecast to be a $100 billion market, according to a study from multinational finance company Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), and within that same time frame, the military will invest $70 billion in the industry, $17 billion will come from consumers and $13 billion from commercial and civil use.

But Munoz and his team recognized that while drones may fill the sky, some form of organization needs to happen to prevent them from crashing into one another during their tasks, which is why they started Aeronyde Corp. — a Melbourne-based firm working to create software for drones to better navigate the area and avoid obstacles.

“We are looking to build a reliable traffic system — a software component that can translate to different drone applications,” said Munoz, co-founder and CEO of Aeronyde.

Aeronyde was founded in April 2016, and has gotten a lot of attention from investors for its research and development. The company, which has been in stealth mode, just released the news that in August it closed on a $4.7 million venture capital deal lead by Korea-based semiconductor company Jastech Ltd., Munoz told Orlando Business Journal.

Aeronyde will use the funds to expand its research and development and may add to its 50-employee team next year, but details on how many jobs it would create were not given.

The firm may sound similar to what the Federal Aviation Administration does to regulate and monitor drone activity, but Munoz said the FAA relies on private companies to create innovative ways to control airspace activity — similar to how Harris Corp. built the cost-saving Next Generation Air Transportation System for the FAA.

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

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: www.webb.nasa.gov or www.nasa.gov/webb

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/

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.

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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? msantana@orlandosentinel.com 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 Cruisefever.net, Complete Article [ HERE ]