By Rebecca Croomes
REDSTONE ARSENAL — Governor Robert Bentley was on hand at Redstone Arsenal Friday morning to unveil the latest research project by the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
State and local officials clapped alongside executives from Marshall Space Flight Center, UAH, Boeing and the military as the blue curtain fell over the new Charger 1 module.
Developers said the project would research alternatives to chemical accelerators by using “fusion pulse” power as a means to generate energy. The purpose is to discover the best way to travel into deep space — to places like Mars and Jupiter — without relying on chemical fuels.
“It’s a remarkable piece of equipment,” said UAH president Robert Altenkirch. “It represents a tremendous addition to our research capabilities. Fusion propulsion represents probably our best opportunity for deep space travel.”
Gov. Bentley praised UAH for its commitment to research, even in difficult economic times with the onset of sequestration.
“Today we’re here to celebrate a major accomplishment; one that proves yet again that the sky is not the limit for Alabama,” he said. “This type of innovation that we’re seeing here today leads to new jobs, and it supports the jobs we already have, especially here in this part of the state.”
Bentley also lauded the project’s connection to the Huntsville-based university as a way to train the next generation of engineers and scientists and send them to work in North Alabama.
“It will help this area for years to come,” he said.
The “Innovation Fund,” a state program designed by Bentley to create jobs by backing projects through Alabama’s public colleges and universities, was responsible for the installation of the generator.
Bentley thanked state legislators for keeping money in the fund and said sequestration will not affect its future, since it is a state program.
Later in the day, NASA’s chief administrator, Charles Bolden, visited Marshall Space Flight Center to observe three-dimensional printing methods, according to Marshall’s public relations office. A Marshall engineer said the agency is invested in the capabilities of the relatively new technology as a method of manufacturing parts.
Recently the space agency test-fired one of the old Saturn series engines — partly to see how they’ve held up over the years. Engineers are also studying the design and assembly of the pieces to work on future space travel vehicles and to preserve the work of men and women of another era.