Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall delivers his keynote address at the 36th Space Symposium, Aug. 24, 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall delivers his keynote address at the 36th Space Symposium, Aug. 24, 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Space Foundation

Defense Business Brief: Space Symposium recap; Boeing unveils Qatar F-15s; ULA requires employees to get vaccinated; and more.

The Space Symposium is over and one thing was abundantly clear: Attendees were happy to be at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for the normally annual event that hasn’t happened since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some perspective, the Space Force and U.S. Space Command didn’t exist the last time space professionals got together for the conference, which brings together professionals from the military, civil, and commercial sectors.

Full disclosure: I was not there. But the Space Foundation, the event’s organizer, had a digital platform that allowed folks like me to join from my home office (or the couch, or while walking the dog). Journalists were also able to join the in-person press briefings through video conferencing software. It all worked really well, so here’s to hoping other organizations scheduled to hold large, in-person conferences in the coming weeks and months consider a similar hybrid attendance format.

Back to the Space Symposium, here’s a recap of what happened: First, new Air Force secretary Frank Kendall announced he stood up a space acquisition office at the Pentagon. He also said he wants to accelerate the absorption of the Space Development Agency into the Air Force. 

Delays in the development of the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine for a new United Launch Alliance Rocket should not force the Space Force to buy more Russian-made RD-180 engines for the Atlas V rocket, according to Gen. Jay Raymond, the Chief of Space Operations.

Kendall told reporters Tuesday that he met with Blue Origin and ULA executives about the delays to the company’s Vulcan Centaur, a rocket that’s supposed to replace the Atlas V. Kendall said there’s risk in the companies’ schedule, but also noted the Space Force has another launch provider—SpaceX.

Other Space Symposium headlines of note: 

  • The microchip shortage that is wreaking havoc throughout the auto industry and other tech sectors could delay military satellite programs, Space News reports.
  • Virgin Orbit, the outfit that launches rockets from a Boeing 747 airliner, plans to go public, according to CNBC.
  • A pandemic-driven shortage in liquid oxygen could impact SpaceX’s launch schedule, Space News reports.

Boeing this week rolled out a new version of the F-15 being built for Qatar, during a ceremony in St. Louis, where the fighter jets are built. The first set of F-15QA jets is expected to fly to Qatar “later this year, following the completion of pre-delivery pilot training,” Boeing said. Flashback: In May, two U.S. Air Force pilots ejected from a Qatari F-15 in Illinois after the jet overran the runway.

Newport News Shipbuilding cut the first piece of steel for the U.S. Navy’s next aircraft carrier. The future USS Doris Miller will be the Navy’s fourth Ford-class carrier.

The United Launch Alliance will require all of its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, CNBC reports. ULA is the rocket-making joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Of note, the company employs about 2,700 people in Colorado, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and California. Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which had previously been administered under an emergency authorization.

Speaking of Alabama, Northrop Grumman has opened a new Missile Defense Futures Lab in Huntsville. “The lab employs comprehensive modeling, simulation, and visualization capabilities to foster innovation and collaboration between developers and warfighters,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Making Moves

JihFen Lei has been named vice president and general manager for Teledyne FLIR’s Surveillance business. She was most recently serving as principal deputy and acting director of defense research and engineering for research and technology at the Pentagon.

Huntington Ingalls Industries has named Brooke Hart executive vice president of communications, succeeding Jerri Dickseski, who is scheduled to retire. Hart was previously vice president, communications and brand, at Sierra Nevada. HII also named Danny Hernandez to succeed Beci Brenton as the company’s corporate director of public affairs. Brenton is scheduled to retire at the end of October. Hernandez is a retired Navy captain with a wealth of military public affairs experience.

We’ll be off next week, so we’ll see you in September!

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