On the same day that US troops closed the door to combat operations in Iraq earlier this month, 157 Iraqi air force cadets began the first class at the newly re-built Iraqi Air Force College, which is modeled after the US Air Force Academy. “The symbolism is striking,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Hanson, director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force, noting the concurrent start of the class and the beginning of Operation New Dawn, the US advise-and-assist mission in Iraq. An Iraqi air force C-130 brought the cadets from New Al Muthana Air Base in Baghdad to Tikrit Air Base, site of the college. “This was a proud moment for us all … [and] just another example of how the Iraqis are taking the lead in developing a credible air force,” said Hanson. (Tikrit report by TSgt. Mike Edwards)
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.