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Construction starts on AMRC North West in Lancashire

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Construction starts on AMRC North West in Lancashire

Lancashire will be a leader in manufacturing innovation and sustainable economic growth, the UK’s regional growth minister said as he welcomed construction starting on the £20m University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in the North West of England.

Luke Hall, Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government, made the comments to mark the first steps in building the 4,500m² applied research centre at the heart of the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone in Preston, Lancashire.

“We are delighted to be backing the University of Sheffield AMRC North West with a £20 million Local Growth Fund investment,” Mr Hall commented. “This project will place Lancashire as a leader in innovation-driven, sustainable economic growth and will act as a catalyst for further inward investment.

“It will also support the creation of highly skilled jobs, bringing opportunities and prosperity to the local community.”

The flagship facility is being built using a £20m grant from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal and extends the AMRC’s footprint across the North. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a turf cutting will be held virtually bringing together key figures involved in the major development.

Steve Foxley, CEO, University of Sheffield AMRC, said that while the ceremony will take place virtually, the new facility will have real-world impacts for the region: “We’ve taken another huge stride in realising our vision to make things better for Lancashire and for the North,” he affirmed.

“This state-of-the-art facility will keep the Lancashire region at the forefront of advanced manufacturing and technologies and support its businesses to innovate and drive up productivity, leading industry towards a green recovery and a smart, sustainable and resilient future.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, added: “The University of Sheffield AMRC has a long history of driving manufacturing and productivity growth in the Sheffield City Region and we’re really proud to be sharing our world-leading expertise and experience in Lancashire.

Even before the first spade hit the dirt for the new facility, the creation of a high-performing technical R&D team at AMRC North West is already having impact, having supported more than 100 small and medium sized firms across the region in the first year, and the recent announcement of a £10m funding win to put Lancashire and North West manufacturing at the cutting edge of 5G technology with the 5G-Factory of the Future programme.

Led by AMRC North West, the programme will develop a 5G industrial testbed to unlock the potential of industrial digitalisation and improve the performance of manufacturers across the North of England.

Robertson, one of the largest family-owned construction, infrastructure and support services businesses in the UK, was awarded the £11m construction contract for AMRC North West. Alongside Robertson a full design team is in place, including Cartwright Pickard Architects, Curtins Engineers, Arup, Gardiner and Theobald, and Rex Procter and Partners. Work is expected to complete during the second half of 2021.

Currently operating from an interim facility provided by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the centre of Preston, the AMRC North West team’s permanent new home will be a gateway development on the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone which is part of the wider Lancashire Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Cluster.

The cutting-edge research centre will combine modern office workspace with a flexible high-tech workshop facility and a triple-height atrium will form the social hub of the office space where occupants can interact and exchange ideas. A ‘social heart’ space will overlook the workshop where innovation-led R&D will be carried out with a focus on digital and additive manufacturing, vehicle electrification, battery assembly and lightweighting technologies.

www.amrc.co.uk

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/construction-starts-on-amrc-north-west-in-lancashire/

Aerospace

Bridenstine, departing NASA, hopes Artemis continues

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WASHINGTON — Jim Bridenstine used part of his final full day as NASA administrator to call on the incoming administration to continue the Artemis program and return humans to the moon.

A Jan. 19 briefing on the Green Run static-fire test of the Space Launch System three days earlier became an opportunity for Bridenstine, who leaves the agency Jan. 20 at the end of the Trump administration, to reflect on his nearly three years on the job and his desire to see the agency’s human space exploration program continue.

“How do we build a program that can endure the test of time?” he said, noting the starts and stops of efforts dating back to the Space Exploration Initiative three decades ago. “We need our Artemis program, we need our moon-to-Mars program, to span generations.”

The failures of past efforts mean that Bridenstine, born in 1975, is the first NASA administrator not to have been alive when people last walked on the moon. “I think it’s important that I be the last NASA administrator in history that wasn’t alive when we had people living and working on the moon,” he said. “That’s a failure of the United States and of humanity. We need to make sure that we’re leading the world in a return to the moon and on to Mars.”

The incoming Biden administration has not detailed its plans for the space agency. A passage in the Democratic Party platform published last July indicated support for a human return to the moon, but did not endorse the Trump administration’s 2024 goal for doing so, a timeframe most in the industry now see as infeasible given limited funding and technical challenges.

“NASA needs to go back and look at the what the options are to go to the moon as quickly as possible,” Bridenstine said in an interview after the Jan. 16 Green Run test at the Stennis Space Center. That’s made more difficult, he acknowledged, by the funding shortfall for the Human Landing System (HLS) program for developing crewed lunar landers, which received only about one-fourth of the $3.3 billion NASA sought for fiscal year 2021.

In the call, Bridenstine said NASA was still analyzing the impact of the reduced HLS funding for that 2024 goal, given that the omnibus spending bill was signed into law less than a month ago. “NASA is doing its work to figure out, number one, do we need to change plans,” he said. “I have no doubt that the amazing people at NASA are going to present a range of options for our return to the moon that the next administration can fully buy into and support.”

Those plans, he said in the earlier interview, should include the SLS. “If we’re talking about sending humans to the moon, that’s the highest probability of success at the earliest possible moment,” he said. “Given the amount of effort and time and investment that has already been made, let’s just get it over the finish line and then go from there.”

Bridenstine’s successor

Bridenstine is leaving NASA with relatively little fanfare, such as a farewell ceremony. Jim Morhard, the departing deputy administrator, posted on Twitter a tribute video for Bridenstine Jan. 19, thanking him for his work leading the agency.

“This has been an emotional week just all the way around,” Bridenstine said in the interview. He said he had been in Washington just before the Green Run test “doing our farewells to people.”

With Bridenstine and Morhard departing, Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator, will serve as acting administrator until the Biden administration nominates, and the Senate confirms, a permanent successor. The new administration hasn’t stated when it anticipates announcing a nominee, but did announce its “science team” Jan. 15, including the nomination of geneticist Eric Lander as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Shortly after the election, several potential candidates for NASA administrator emerged, primarily women. They have included former astronaut Pam Melroy, former Aerospace Corporation chief executive Wanda Austin, and Kendra Horn, a former congresswoman who chaired the House space subcommittee in the previous Congress.

“I think the Biden-Harris administration would very much like to name, from everything I understand, the first woman NASA administrator,” said Jack Burns, a professor of astronomy at the University of Colorado who served on the NASA transition team for the Trump administration four years ago, during a session of the 237th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society Jan. 14. “Some of the names that have been put forward are extremely well qualified.”

Bridenstine, in the interview, offered a similar assessment, but without identifying any particular candidates. “I’ve heard some names, all very qualified, very capable people,” he said. “I’m confident that the future is bright.”

That transition work has taken place quietly, and without some of the conflict and drama seen at other agencies where the outgoing Trump administration was uncooperative. “The situation at NASA, both in the last transition and this transition, has in fact been much closer to normal,” Burns said. “In talking to the Biden-Harris transition team for NASA, I have the sense that there has been good collaboration.”

Bridenstine said he hasn’t made any plans for his future after NASA, other than returning to Oklahoma and spending time with his family there. “I love space, but I don’t know what the future holds there,” he said when asked if he would like to remain in the industry in some way. “We’ll have to see.”

Bridenstine did say he’ll be closely following the agency, planning to watch next month’s landing of the Mars 2020 rover and the Artemis 1 launch. He also pledged to support whomever succeeds him as the leader of NASA. “Whoever the next NASA administrator is, I’m going to be all-in,” he said in the interview. “However I can help them, I want to help them.”

He reiterated that point at the end of the Green Run briefing. “I will be watching with great interest,” he said. “There will be a new NASA administrator, and when that person comes in, they’re going to have my full support to do the amazing things that NASA does.”

Source: https://spacenews.com/bridenstine-departing-nasa-hopes-artemis-continues/

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Rocket Lab launches secretive communications satellite for OHB

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WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab successfully launched a communications satellite for German company OHB Group Jan. 20 in the first Electron mission of the year.

The Electron lifted off from the company’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 2:26 a.m. Eastern after a brief delay because of gusty winds. Rocket Lab scrubbed the original launch attempt for the “Another One Leaves the Crust” mission four days earlier because of “strange data” from a sensor.

Electron released the sole satellite on the mission, GMS-T, 70 minutes after liftoff. “Perfect orbit, payload deployed. Hello 2021!” tweeted Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab.

The payload for this mission has been shrouded in secrecy since Rocket Lab announced the planned launch Jan. 5. The name of the satellite itself was not disclosed by OHB until after liftoff, and a press kit for the mission did not include the satellite’s mass or orbital altitude, stating only that it was going into an orbit at an inclination of 90 degrees.

Rocket Lab said in its announcement of the upcoming launch that the payloads “will be a single communication microsatellite that will enable specific frequencies to support future services from orbit.” OHB, which built the satellite, procured the launch last August. At the time it cited “an unmatched delivery time” by Rocket Lab, who agreed to launch the payload within six months.

An image of the rocket’s payload fairing included a logo with an illustration of the satellite and the words “BIU GMS-T.” Analysts speculated that the name of the satellite was GMS-T, with BIU referring to “bring into use,” a term in satellite communications for first use of spectrum allocated by the International Telecommunication Union and national regulators and consistent with the stated mission to “enable specific frequencies” for future applications.

The ultimate customer for the satellite may be GMS Zhaopin, a Chinese company planning a satellite constellation. It has been linked to a German company, KLEO Connect, that has announced plans for a constellation to provide internet of things services.

The launch is the first of what Rocket Lab previously called a “packed launch manifest” for 2021, although the company has not announced a specific number of launches it foresees performing this year. Those launches will include the first launches from Launch Complex 2 at Wallops Island, Virginia, and from a second pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

Source: https://spacenews.com/rocket-lab-launches-secretive-communications-satellite-for-ohb/

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Biden’s Defense nominee embraces view of space as a domain of war

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Austin: “If confirmed, I will ensure the space domain is carefully considered across the range of upcoming strategic reviews.”

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for defense secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Jan. 19 that China is the United States’ “most concerning competitor” and in written testimony identified space as a growing national security concern.

“If confirmed, I will ensure the space domain is carefully considered across the range of upcoming strategic reviews,” Austin said in a statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

The SASC held a nearly four-hour confirmation hearing for Austin a day before Biden’s inauguration. He would be the nation’s first African-American secretary of defense. To get confirmed, Congress has to approve a waiver because Austin has not been retired from the military for seven years as the law requires. While some lawmakers said they oppose providing such a waiver, Austin is expected to be confirmed. 

In prepared testimony, Austin called space “an arena of great power competition” and endorsed the prevailing thinking in the national security space community that U.S. systems have to be more resilient and survivable against anti-satellite weapons.

“Chinese and Russian space activities present serious and growing threats to U.S. national security interests,” Austin stated. “While Russia is a key adversary, China is the pacing threat.”

Defense secretary nominee Lloyd Austin. Credit: SASC

Austin did not weigh in on whether it was a good idea to establish the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command — both strongly championed by the Trump administration. He said a military space reorganization had been advocated for years by independent commissions, lawmakers and multiple administrations.

“If confirmed, I will assess the current structure to ensure the defense space enterprise is postured to advance our national security objectives most effectively,” Austin testified. 

He noted that the DoD space enterprise is “still not well integrated with other services and terrestrial commands, and there are several other challenges that will need to be addressed.”

More broadly, given the importance of space in as an engine of economic competitiveness, he said “it is essential to continue developing best practices, standards and international norms of behavior in space.”

Austin warned that commercial activities in space are a concern to the military because of the congestion and the possibility of collisions in orbit.

He noted that thousands of new satellites will be sent to orbit in the coming decade, most privately owned and operated. This creates a risk to the United States “in the sense that the government needs to ensure that they do not collide with expensive and exquisitely capable government assets.”

None of the senators during the hearing asked Austin any questions on space policy. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) brought up the recent decision by the Trump administration to move the headquarters of U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. Heinrich represents one of the locations — Kirtland Air Force Base — that competed to host Space Command. 

Heinrich criticized the selection process and asked Austin to commit to “take a close look” at how the decision was made. Austin said he would do so. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pressed Austin on his ties to defense contractor Raytheon, where he served on the board of directors. Austin said he will recuse himself from all Pentagon business involving Raytheon for the entire time he’s in office. “I’m sensitive to the appearance concerns you raise,” he told Warren.

Austin said the coronavirus pandemic currently is the nation’s greatest challenge and he would support a greater Defense Department role in the response to the crisis.

Austin’s hearing was the last one chaired by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) before control of the Senate shifts to Democrats. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) will chair the SASC in the new Congress.

“That transition will take place very peacefully,” Inhofe said to chuckles in the room.

Source: https://spacenews.com/bidens-defense-nominee-embraces-view-of-space-as-a-domain-of-war/

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Former U.S. Air Force secretary Heather Wilson joins Maxar’s board of directors

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Wilson currently is president of the University of Texas El Paso.

WASHINGTON — Former secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has joined the board of directors of Maxar Technologies, the company announced Jan. 19. 

Wilson currently is president of the University of Texas El Paso. She was the Air Force’s top civilian from May 2017 through May 2019 and previously was a congresswoman representing New Mexico. 

Wilson was appointed to the Maxar board but still has to be elected by the company’s stockholders at their next annual meeting later this year. Maxar’s board is led by retired Air Force general Howell Estes and one of its members is retired Air Force general Robert Kehler.

Maxar is the U.S. government’s largest supplier of satellite imagery and geospatial intelligence. Wilson will provide Maxar strategic advice as the company seeks to grow its national security and intelligence business.

Maxar’s executive vice president and chief technology officer Walter Scott told SpaceNews that the company sees a rising demand from U.S. defense and intelligence agencies for technologies that can rapidly analyze and exploit data. In 2020 Maxar acquired Vricon, a supplier of satellite-derived 3D data aimed at the defense and intelligence markets,

Scott said Maxar plans to use Vricon’s technology to create virtual training environments for the U.S. military. So-called “digital twins” of the planet also could be used by the military for navigation and targeting.

Maxar plans to launch its first two next-generation WorldView Legion satellites as early as September 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This is a highly anticipated event, said Scott, as these satellites will provide new imagery capabilities from different orbits with with higher revisit rates.

Source: https://spacenews.com/former-u-s-air-force-secretary-heather-wilson-joins-maxar-board-of-directors/

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