Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Japanese Rail Carmaker Looking at Palmdale Plant

PALMDALE – AV Press recently reported: A Japanese company could start building rail cars out of a former bomber factory in the city as soon as August, the city's mayor said Monday. City of Palmdale leaders met Monday with five representatives of Kinkisharyo International, a Massachusetts subsidiary of Japanese firm Kinki Sharyo, to discuss the company's use of Site 9, the former B-1B bomber plant located at 30th Street East and Avenue P. Kinkisharyo is negotiating with Los Angeles World Airports, which owns Site 9, for a lease for one of the massive hangars. Ledford said they gave the company's representatives a feel for the permitting process. City officials also vowed that they would help them with any issues with other jurisdictions. Kinkisharyo has a $890 million contract to build potentially hundreds of light-rail cars for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The immediate work would be to produce two rail cars in what Ledford called a demonstration phase of the contract. Kinkisharyo International was awarded an $890 million contract by MTA last April to produce as many as 235 rail cars, with the first 28 cars to be delivered by 2015. The contract included a commitment to creating U.S. jobs in delivering the vehicles. "It sets the stage for the balance of the program," Ledford said. "This opens the door with MTA for other rail car construction." Initially, the work would provide 50 to 60 jobs. As the program progresses, it could mean as many as 200 to 250 jobs. Dave Walter, Palmdale's director of economic development, said the company has the capability to do more than light rail. The company could play a role in the planned high-speed rail project that would link Southern and Northern California. Having those rail cars produced in California could help lower the cost of that project, Walter said. The next step is for the company to finalize a lease agreement with Los Angeles World Airports. An organization spokesman said those discussions are ongoing. "They are coming," Ledford said. "It's a home run for us. Now we have to perform." Site 9 has a remarkable history. It was used by Rockwell International during the 1980s for the assembly of 100 B-1B bombers. The site saw use as a soundstage for four major movies. For the 1998 release "Hard Rain,'' starring Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman, several sets depicting a small town were built inside one of the massive hangars. The set was flooded for the movie's climax. One assembly building was used in the 2003 Steven Spielberg movie "Terminal,'' starring Tom Hanks. For that film, a 2-story replica of an airport terminal was built, complete with some 40 retail shops and restaurants. The site also was used for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and for a "Mission Impossible" film. For approximately two years in the early 2000s, the plant was occupied by Swiss-based SR Technics, which arrived in the Antelope Valley with much fanfare in 2000, intending to run an airline maintenance and renovation operation. However, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent nosedive in the aviation industry forced its parent corporation into bankruptcy, taking fledgling SR Technics with it. One of the two hangars at Site 9 already is under lease to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA uses the site to house a number of science aircraft, including the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy flying telescope, the high-altitude ER-2s and a DC-8 flying laboratory. NASA's 20-year lease for what is now known as the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility was signed in 2007. NASA invested $6.4 million in modifications and upgrades to the facility, in addition to $4 million in refurbishments by Los Angeles World Airports.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo makes history with 1st rocket-powered flight. Antelope Valley First in Private Rocket Flight?

The Antelope Valley Continues its thrust as a major location for aeronautics with now Virgin Galactic, but also with the Stealth Bomber, and the big three Northrup, Lockheed and McDonald Douglas have manufacturing facilities in the valley. Mojave, Calif. – From Foxnews and A private spaceship designed to carry space tourists made its first rocket-powered test flight Monday, April 29, reaching supersonic speeds as it paved the way toward commercial flights in the near future. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo space plane fired its rocket engines for the first time during flight this morning in a test from California's Mojave Air and Spaceport. The vehicle was carried aloft by the mothership WhiteKnightTwo, and then released in midair at an altitude of about 46,000 feet. At that point, SpaceShipTwo test fired its rocket engine, designed to propel the craft of the rest of the way up to space. 'We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.'- Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides After a short 16-second burn today, SpaceShipTwo reached a maximum altitude of 56,000 feet before flew back to Earth. The trip marked the 26th test flight of the vehicle, and the first "powered flight," which propelled the ship to Mach 1.2, fast enough to beat the speed of sound, which is 761 miles per hour. [See amazing photos of SpaceShipTwo test flights. "The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout," Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. "The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space." SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital vehicle, designed to carry space tourists on trips to the edge of space and back for $200,000 a ride. Though these flights wouldn't make a full orbit of the planet, they would provide passengers with a brief experience of weightlessness and a view of Earth from the blackness of space. Virgin Galactic is backed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground at Mojave to view the flight today. "This is a momentous day and the single most important flight test to date for our Virgin Galactic program," Branson wrote in a blog post on Virgin's website. "What a feeling to be on the ground with all the team in Mojave to witness the occasion." If test flights continue to go well, SpaceShipTwo may carry passengers as soon as this year or 2014, Virgin Galactic officials have said. Already, more than 500 people have signed up for the flights, which will be run out of Spaceport America in New Mexico once testing is complete. The test flight began this morning at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT, or 1400 GMT). Flying aboard SpaceShipTwo were pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Mike Alsbury, both test pilots for the private aerospace firm Scaled Composites, which built SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic. It comes after two recent glide test flights, on April 3 and April 12, that set the stage for today's landmark powered test. Scaled also built the space plane's predecessor, SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by becoming the first commercial vehicle to fly people to space and back twice in a week.