News from the Tennessee Valley Business

ULA first defense in space wars

Decatur businesses are in constant trade battles with China. Air Force Space Command Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, speaking at the 10th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville last week, reminded us that Decatur has a role in more traditional battles.

He spoke highly of Decatur’s United Launch Alliance facility, which builds the Delta IV satellite-launch rocket, and soon is slated to start production of the Atlas V.

“These vehicles are 17 for 17 in successful launches,” Chilton said. “That’s a record unmatched.”

His point in praising ULA involved China. He was more direct than most military brass have been in discussing the significance of a test in which China, on Jan. 11, shot down one of its satellites.

“They were sending us a message,” Chilton said.

We must respond to the message by developing the capability to launch satellites more quickly, he said, and that’s what ULA is all about.

He didn’t mention it, but a U.S. Defense Support Program satellite discovered China’s anti-satellite test.

The next DSP satellite will be launched in September by a Decatur-made Delta IV Heavy.

Teaching Martians

On the topic of space wars, the Mars lander launched by a Decatur-made Delta II had an odd item in its payload: a DVD. On the DVD was an extensive library of literature about Mars, most of it science fiction.

The organization that created the DVD was careful to say its intended audience was humans who travel to Mars in the future.

Hopefully, they are right. “War of the Worlds” and Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of an attack by Martians might not be the best public relations gambit if little green men are the first to listen.

Welcome to Saturn

For 300 transplanted Delphi employees, Mars might look like a delightful place compared to Saturn. General Motors’ Saturn plant in Tennessee, that is.

As a concession to UAW, GM agreed that 300 Delphi employees could transfer to the Saturn plant when the Limestone County Delphi plant closes down.

It’s a long commute, but the promise that they can keep all their GM and Delphi seniority makes it an attractive offer.

Saturn employees, though, are not so thrilled.

GM employees who moved to Saturn’s Spring Hill plant when it opened in 1992 gave up their seniority to do so.

It made sense at the time, because GM was closing its older plants and laying off employees.

“Any Delphi people coming into Saturn can bring seniority back to 1985,” complained one Saturn employee to the Detroit Free Press.

“If they’ve got close to 30 years and transfer here, they can step over the top of anybody down here.”

Contact Eric Fleischauer at

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