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Rocket Lab reschedules first Wallops launch to January

Having had to scrub the launch on December 18th and December 19th due of weather, Rocket Lab has now officially rescheduled its first Wallops launch to January.

The move of the planned launch window from December 2022 to early 2023 was driven by weather and the additional time that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Wallops and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required to complete essential regulatory documentation for launch. The delay in documentation left only two days in the originally scheduled 14-day launch window and both of those final remaining days were unsuitable for launch due to bad weather. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is now closed for launch activity for the remainder of the December due to holiday airspace restrictions, preventing further launch attempts in 2022.

Rocket Lab originally wanted to launch from Wallops two years ago, but has been repeatedly stymied by government red tape. At that time the company wanted to use the software of its own flight termination system, a system that it has successfully used in New Zealand more than two dozen times, including several times where launch failures actually required the system to destroy the rocket. NASA said no, and instead insisted on spending two years apparently creating its own software which also requires the added presence of NASA officials during launch.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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5 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    Fer Pete’s sake, they’ve been launching at Wallops Island since the Fifties. RL had flight tested software. I see the insidious hand of the Biden Admin, NASA’s need to justify its existence and regulatory creep at work

  • Richard M

    Peter Beck’s comments in today’s article at SpaceNews really convey how frustrated he is with FAA red tape, in a way I’ve never heard from him before.

    Rocket Lab was prepared to launch Electron Dec. 16, but the night before announced that the launch was postponed two days to allow NASA, which operates the Wallops Flight Facility co-located with MARS, and the Federal Aviation Administration to complete what the company called “range-driven documentation.”

    The issue, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck said in a Dec. 16 interview, involved differences between NASA and FAA on range safety and flight safety documentation. At a Dec. 14 briefing, NASA said it expected that paperwork to be completed in a day, but at a launch readiness review the two agencies said they needed more time to complete it.

    Beck said he was “disappointed and frustrated” with the delay. “This is the first time and there’s always going to be some teething issues,” he said. “I guess we’re just frustrated that these teething issues didn’t happen six months ago. It happened literally days before we were ready to launch.” He noted the rocket and its payload had been ready to launch for nearly two weeks while waiting for final approvals.

    The paperwork issue was not related to the rocket’s autonomous flight termination system. Its certification for use on Electron from Wallops was delayed by more than two years because of problems with the NASA-developed software for it.

    […]

    Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, though, will remain the primary site for Electron. “We can turn stuff around quickly and be very commercial,” he said. The company owns the launch site and thus has much more control over operations. The challenges of getting started at Wallops, he said, “make you appreciate owning your own range where you’re in control of all of this and you’re dealing with one regulator directly.”

    He said he expects that future launches from Wallops will go more smoothly. “That is what has been promised, and that is our expectation, because it can’t be like this.”

    https://spacenews.com/weather-and-range-issues-delay-first-electron-launch-from-wallops-to-january/

    This is the sound of a man reaching his breaking point with U.S. government bureaucracy. I would ask if the FAA and NASA are actually serious about making Wallops into a place where a lot more commercial launch activity takes place, but I comprehend that this is not the question your typical bureaucrat asks himself everyday.

  • Richard M: I have been struck by the difference in behavior in these bureaucracies between the Trump and Biden administrations. Under Trump, these bureaucrats were made very aware that they were not to become an obstacle to success, and if they were, Trump’s team hammered them. The result was few delays, and much progress.

    Under Biden, they are free to do what they want, and what they want to do is to exert power and hammer private enterprise. The result has been a slow down of development across a number of fronts.

  • Sippin_bourbon

    They do not want another commercial success like SpaceX on their hands…
    Making them look bad.

    (In my cynical opinion)

  • Star Bird

    When can we all send liberals to Mars?

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