BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Now that the 2013 gift-giving season is in the bag, it’s time to think big for the 2014 holiday season.
Made in Alabama last week shared its holiday gift guide, which featured several great products made right here in the state, ranging from hand-crafted pens that have been presented as gifts by Alabama officials to foreign dignitaries to luxurious rides like the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV.
But there are other Alabama-made products that ordinary people just can’t buy, like rockets and warships and space stations. (Yes, they’re all made here.) So we put together a list of some of Alabama’s finest engineering masterpieces for Santa to daydream about as he begins envisioning a wish list for 2014 and beyond.
This list underscores just how strongly manufacturing and innovation exists in the DNA of Alabama’s highly skilled workforce.
The first of Austal’s 419-foot LCS vessels, the USS Independence, was delivered to the Navy in 2009, with the final 10 of 12 vessels in the program awarded to Austal as prime contractor following a $3.5 billion order in 2010, according to an AL.com report. Several of the aluminum vessels are currently under construction at Austal’s Mobile shipyard.
The LCS fleet is intended to replace aging frigates while performing such critical missions such as as destroying mine and hunting submarines.
2. Or maybe Santa could drop off presents with unmanned aerial vehicles like those produced in Huntsville, including this one from Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin last year acquired Huntsville-based ChandlerMay Inc., a pioneering firm in the field which designs, develops and manufactures unmanned aerial craft such as the Desert Hawk UAV and fully integrated UAS models called the Fury and the SharkFin.
ULA — a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing — assembles heavy-lift rockets including the Atlas V and the Delta IV at its Alabama facility. In early December, a 19-story-tall Atlas V rocket lifted off from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California, carrying a payload from the National Reconnaissance Office, which controls U.S. intelligence satellites.
4. If Nick needs to call the Mrs. Claus, an inflatable satellite antenna from GATR Technologies might come in handy around remote parts of the world.
The Huntsville firm produces portable, lightweight, inflatable satellite communications antennas that are useful in tactical situations. GATR has been awarded a $440 million contract from the U.S. Army for its inflatable satellite antennas. The company’s systems also provided communications support after a massive typhoon recently devastated parts of the Philippines.
5. In case Santa needs a port in outer space, he should know that parts of the International Space Station were made in Huntsville.
The International Space Station, partially designed and assembled in Alabama, celebrates its 15-year anniversary this month. The Unity node, a passageway connecting living and work areas of the ISS, was designed and assembled at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. On Dec. 4, 1998, Unity was launched into space and days later was in place as part of the ISS. Boeing was a prime contractor on the project.
6. It’s not exactly completed just yet, but if Santa needs to make a deep space trip sometime in the future, NASA and Boeing are working on the next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), in Huntsville.
More than four decades after going to the moon with the Alabama-designed Saturn V rocket, NASA is now developing a rocket in Alabama that could go to Mars. The space agency is partnering with a number of the world’s most prominent aerospace companies to build the largest and most powerful rocket in history: the SLS. It is being designed at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
7. If Santa needs to make a shorter trip, perhaps with elves in tow, he soon will be able to climb aboard an Alabama-made passenger jet.
Airbus will produce the first A320 family aircraft at its ultramodern facility in Alabama in 2015, with the first delivery set for the following year. The aerospace giant is investing $600 million to establish the production center at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex, where it will have 1,000 workers.