Northrop Grumman announced Monday that it had returned to the Air Force a B-2 bomber that has just undergone routine programmed depot maintenance—complete with a fresh paint job that includes the new Air Force Global Strike Command’s emblem. It is the first of AFGSC’s B-2s to have the command insignia. According to the company release, the bomber actually flew back to its home base at Whiteman AFB, Mo., on Jan. 26. AFGSC did not officially take control of the nuclear-capable bomber force—B-2s and B-52s—until Feb. 1. The B-2s undergo PDM at Northrop’s Palmdale, Calif., facility every seven years, putting each stealth bomber “back into its optimal form,” said Dave Mazur, Northrop’s VP for long range strike and B-2 program manager. The PDM process takes about 13 months; all 20 of the service’s B-2s have undergone at least one PDM.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.