Today’s Tidbits: November 16, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: November 16, 2017

Here are our tidbits for November 16, 2017:  JPSS-1 now set for Saturday; Zuma not set at all; Senate passes final FY2018 NDAA; Virgin Orbit gets first DOD contract, creates VOX Space subsidiary.   Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

JPSS-1 now on Saturday

Artist’s illustration of JPSS-1. Credit: NASA

Those upper level winds are abating and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will try again to launch NOAA’s new weather satellite, JPSS-1, on Saturday morning at 4:47 am Eastern (1:47 am Pacific).  Tuesday’s attempt was scrubbed due to a launch vehicle problem and an unspecified problem on the range; Wednesday’s was thwarted by upper level winds and an unspecified problem on the range.  The weather won’t be a problem on Saturday — the forecast is an almost unheard of 100% “go.”   ULA President Tory Bruno tweeted the new launch date early today.

Zuma’s Launch Delayed, Not Clear Till When

SpaceX’s launch of the mysterious Zuma satellite also has slipped.  It was supposed to launch yesterday, was postponed to today, and then delayed again.  This morning,  the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing — which controls the Eastern Test Range of which NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) are part — tweeted that the launch would go tomorrow (Friday).

However, this afternoon, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor sent a notice via email that while the company is preserving the opportunity to launch tomorrow, it was standing down to “take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer.”  Thus, the launch date is TBD.

SpaceX’s full statement is:  “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

Publicly, no one knows what Zuma is other than a military satellite built by Northrop Grumman and its launch window — whatever day it is launched apparently — is between 8:00-10:00 pm ET.  The launch only came to light a month ago. and have been covering it.   Whenever it goes, the Falcon 9 first stage is due to return to a landing at CCAFS.

Senate Finalizes NDAA

The Senate passed the conference version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today, clearing it for the President, who is expected to sign it.  The bill authorizes almost $700 billion for DOD.  Authorization bills set policy and recommend funding levels, but do not actually provide any money at all.  Money is provided to agencies like DOD through appropriations bills. Congress is still working on those.  For space policy, the most important feature of the FY2018 NDAA is its provisions regarding management of DOD space programs.

Virgin Orbit Gets DOD Contact, Creates VOX Space Subsidiary

Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s venture to build an air-launched rocket called LauncherOne, got its first DOD contract today.   The launch of a DOD Space Test Program (STP) satellite will take place “as early as January 2019” according to a company press release. The contract was awarded via a DOD “Other Transaction Authority” agreement (similar to NASA’s Space Act Agreements) through a partnership between the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and VOX Space LLC, a new, independent Virgin Orbit subsidiary dedicated to serving the national security market.

Virgin Orbit highlighted LauncherOne’s flexibility and responsiveness in announcing the deal.  CEO Dan Hart said “the incredible responsiveness and affordability of LauncherOne is now available to the national security market.  Under Mandy’s excellent leadership, VOX Space brings a critical service to a very important segment of the market.”  “Mandy” is VOX Space President Mandy Vaughn.

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