MOJAVE, Calif. – Leaders, businessmen and politicians from around the Antelope Valley met for the 42nd annual Antelope Valley Board of Trade Business Outlook Conference at the Mojave Air and Space Port Feb. 21.
The conference was held in the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. The venue was selected to suit the theme for the conference, “Breaking Boundaries.”
“The room you’re in today, 72 years ago, was the largest indoor pool in the state of California. Where you’re sitting, every Marine Corps World War II ace received his swim training and parachute de-entanglement training in a gantry that ran the whole length of the pool,” said Stuart Witt, CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.
While working on the event center, names were discovered written in chalk of Marines who had trained in that pool. A historian was able to identify the names that were found. According to Witt, the history of the center is only one reason that the Space Port was an appropriate location for the conference. He stated that there is an in-explainable “crackle” in Mojave where he knows something big is sure to happen.
Maj. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Air Force Test Center commander, spoke about the AFTC†mission and programs going on throughout the test enterprise.
Bunch is in his fourth assignment at Edwards AFB and as a result, has spent over 10 years working in the Edwards and Antelope Valley communities.
“Without a great community relationship, without working with the community, nothing that we do at Edwards or across the center can be successful, so I want to applaud you and thank you for doing all the great work you do to make the lives of the men and women that work at Edwards Air Force Base just that much better,” said Bunch.
Bunch shared a short video intended to show the start of a test program all the way through a graduation exercise, dropping weapons and certifying something ready to go into operational test and evaluation.
“It’s all now within the Air Force Test Center which is not the way we had done business before.
So my focus is much larger than it used to be, when it was the Air Force Flight Test Center,” said Bunch. “Right now it’s 31 locations across the United States, a little over 18,000 people, we’re running a little more than $2 billion a year through the organization, a lot of that’s right here in the local community doing a lot of work.”
He added, “We are doing a good job of working across that enterprise to do things more efficiently and effectively. That means that tests that used to be done at Eglin [AFB, Fla.], are now done at Edwards and vice versa, so that we can do things in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.”
He went on to say that, looking to the future, the test center is seeking to continue the community partnerships that ensure us the capabilities to test the next generation of technology.
“Our war fighters have a decided technological advantage on the battlefield today and it’s critical that we do our j-o-b to ensure that the young men and women, our true national treasure that we send into harms’ way, have that same decided technological advantage. And that is not done just on the backs of the government folks. That is a partnership, we use the “big A,” airmen,” said Bunch.
According to Bunch, it’s a partnership between the contractors on base, the government civilians and military personnel and all are crucial to the mission, just as the positive relationship with the community is vital to Edwards.
Filling in for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Director, David McBride, was deputy directory, Patrick Stoliker, to update guests on how NASA helps “ensure that the United States remains the world leader in space exploration, aeronautics and scientific discovery.”
Stoliker began by stating that the “greatest man-made space structure ever,” the International Space Station, has been continuously occupied for 15 years and has been approved to continue operations through 2024.
“Supporting the ISS with commercial cargo deliveries, we are continuing our exploration of the Martian surface and finding evidence that past life was possible though no proof of life yet exists,” said Stoliker.
He added that Dryden is also supporting the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph solar observatory launch, the Van Allen Probe launch, and the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite launch.
“And, for the first time ever, mankind, through NASA, has sent a spacecraft outside the solar system with Voyager One’s 36-year mission,” said Stoliker.
Moving closer to full operational capability is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. Stoliker noted that SOFIA has been able to validate Kepler Telescope findings that there are planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. As a result, Dryden is “moving closer to identifying planets capable of supporting life.”
SOFIA has also made significant breakthroughs this year in supporting stellar chemistry and understanding star formations.
NASA’s Northrop Grumman-made Global Hawk is stationed in Guam where it is collecting data in the airborne tropical tropopause experiment. The goal is to understand the stratospheric water vapor and its impact on the climate.
“Small changes in the humidity of the atmosphere have big impacts on climate,” said Stoliker. “This research will help unravel the mechanisms behind California’s drought and the polar vortex.”
In the midst of all the research, Dryden has been preparing for a change. The Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center will be known as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center effective Mar. 1.
Resolution HR-667, sponsored by Congressman Kevin McCarthy, was signed Jan. 16, by President Barack Obama.
“This change is an immense honor for our center,” said Stoliker. “Neil Armstrong, although many think of him as the first man to stand on the moon, we think of him as an X-15 pilot and a research engineer and a resident of the Antelope Valley.”
According to Stoliker, NASA will continue to celebrate Hugh Dryden’s legacy by re-naming the Western Aeronautical Test Range in his honor.
Along with Bunch and Stoliker, presentations were also given from dignitaries such as Zack Scrivner, 2nd District Supervisor of Kern County; Michael Antonovich, 5th District Supervisor for Los Angeles County, U.S. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and California Senator Steve Knight, 17th District.
Keven Mickey, president of Scaled Composites, and George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, updated the community on what’s happening in the aerospace industry in Mojave. The conference was heavily focused on commercial space flight research and development.
The group was also addressed by John Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the 60-year-old restaurant chain Denny’s.
City of Palmdale Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lackey, spoke on emerging from difficult economic times. He shared about growing the business community in Palmdale by acquiring such businesses as Family Christian Stores, Francesca’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and soon, Chick-Fil-A.
Mayor Rex Parris, City of Lancaster, gave a detailed update on the city’s current projects and expansions. Like Palmdale, Lancaster has also acquired new businesses like INCOTEC and BYD. But what Parris was really excited to share was an update on his goal for Lancaster to become the “center of the world” when it comes to solar energy.
Representatives from KB Homes spoke on the technology being developed for their NetZero homes that run primarily on solar energy created during daylight hours and stored for later use. The company is also looking at ways to repurpose the grey water created during activities like showering.
Christopher Thornberg, Beacon Economics, was “back by popular demand” to give an update on the nation’s economy, addressing everything from job rates to the Affordable Care Act.
One of more unique moments in the conference was a video call from the International Space Station.
The Keynote Speaker, Mark Kelly, U.S. Navy (retired) has had the privilege of visiting the space station himself as a NASA astronaut. He served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator and in 1996 became an astronaut who later flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour. He has made four trips to the International Space Station and has commanded Space Shuttle Discovery.