Tuesday AM August 7th, 2007

Boeing contributes upgrades to Space Shuttle Endeavour for this week’s launch…Nearly a third of domestic flights on major U.S. airlines late in June…Ceva to base freight division in Houston… Boeing Space Exploration has made around 194 improvements to the Space Shuttle Endeavour—many of which will be used for the first time on its mission this […]

Boeing contributes upgrades to Space Shuttle Endeavour for this week’s launch…Nearly a third of domestic flights on major U.S. airlines late in June…Ceva to base freight division in Houston…

SS-PTSBoeing Space Exploration has made around 194 improvements to the Space Shuttle Endeavour—many of which will be used for the first time on its mission this week. Some improvements will permit just a quarter of the orbiting International Space Station’s power to be realized. The Boeing-engineered Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System, or SS-PTS, will allow extended on-orbit shuttle stays and time for more scientific experiments, as Boeing’s Chris Barton explains.

“They wanted to extend the duration that the orbiter can be docked to space station from six to eight days now, up to nine to 12 days. The space station currently uses solar panels to provide approximately 120 volts DC, and the orbiter, on the other hand, uses 28 volts DC. So in order to increase docked days, we’re going to use the solar panes from the space station and in order to do that we have to convert from 120 volts to 28 volts. And that’s where the SS-PTS system comes in.”

The Boeing office in Houston–as United Space Alliance’s major subcontractor for the space shuttle–works with other contractors and subcontractors for the shuttle and the space station, as Barton explains.

“We have PRT, where we involve guys out in Houston with Boeing—the shuttle guys. We actually have shuttle system engineers for the power distribution in Houston, and we work with them on systems issues. Also in Boeing is the ISS program, We interface with them on the SS-PTS system as far as fulfilling requirements for the system and getting this box delivered and installed and certified.”

Boeing’s Ken Smith says Boeing’s Houston office helps in other ways.

“Yeah, and then the other part of Houston is Boeing runs part of the mission evaluation room for the orbiter, and what we do there is monitor the mission 24 hours a day, along with the missions operations directorate, and if we have any problems on orbit, then we bring our design and operational expertise and help them solve it.”

More than 740 either Boeing-built or Boeing-designed flight hardware components will be delivered on the STS-118 Space Shuttle Endeavour and ISS Flight Assembly 13.A1 mission when it finally launches. NASA says workers have been behind schedule on a number of pre-launch tasks, partly because they had to replace a pressure valve in the crew cabin.

Nearly a third of domestic flights on major U.S. airlines were late in June. Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation also show delays in the first six months of the year soared to the highest level since the government began tracking them 13 years ago. At least part of the explanation for the increasing delays is that demand for air travel is rising. DOT also says nearly 45 percent of late flights were delayed by bad weather. That’s up 7 percent from the same month last year. The on-time arrival rate in June was just above 68 percent, compared with roughly 73 percent a year earlier. So far in 2007, nearly 25 percent of flights on the 20 largest carriers have arrived late. Travelers on Delta regional affiliate Atlantic Southeast Airlines had it worst in June, as about 56 percent of flights arrived on time. Fort Worth-based American Airlines was barely better, with an on-time arrival rate of about 58 percent. U.S. Airways had an on-time rate of about 62 percent.

Families with young children are usually invited aboard their flights first, along with other special needs passengers. But what if families with children aren’t among the first to board? Might the process go more smoothly? Dallas-based Southwest Airlines hopes to find out–and is experimenting with later family boarding on flights from San Antonio. Southwest is experimenting with setting aside a few rows of seats on the plane where flight attendants can seat a family that can’t find seats together with the later boarding. It’s then comparing the results with comparable flights on which no seats are set aside. The experiment allows families that have already obtained passes for earlier boarding to opt out of the experiment. But some traveling families say they’d be happy to give up the privilege of boarding first, if it made the process easier. The trial comes at a time when the airline industry is struggling with increased delays, cancellations and passenger complaints about deteriorating service. Several incidents in the past year have involved traveling families. One recent case involved a mother who was escorted off a plane after her toddler kept saying “bye-bye plane!”

Ceva, which recently acquired Houston-based EGL, is announcing that one of its two divisions—Ceva Freight Management–will be based in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle. EGL shareholders voted last week to approve the merger agreement between Ceva and EGL, which formerly was Eagle Global Logistics. The new company employs more than 50,000 employees with operations in more than 100 countries. EGL had about 800 employees based in Houston.

Houston-based American Security Resources has been granted a worldwide license by Ohio University to commercialize its patent-pending catalytic electrolyzer technology developed by an associate professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering. According to the Houston Business Journal, the clean energy technology firm says the professor has developed a method for producing hydrogen from ammonia for a fraction of the current commercial cost.

Spectra Energy shares slid after the Houston-based natural gas transmission company reported a 39 percent drop in second-quarter earnings. The stock hit its lowest level since duke energy spun Spectra off on January 2nd. Spectra Energy said income fell to $196 million. The results included a $4 million addition of special items and discontinued operations in the three-month period. It also was inflated by $56 million related to special items and discontinued operations and a $30 million tax reduction. Spectra’s revenue, meanwhile, rose slightly to $985 million. Spectra Energy said its western Canada transmission & processing business saw its earnings before taxes fall 46 percent to $48 million. Despite the challenge in its Canada business, the company says it’s “well positioned to achieve its 2007 financial goals.”

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