Today’s Tidbits: September 23, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: September 23, 2017

Here are our tidbits for today, September 23, 2017.  Be sure to check our website for feature-length stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live-tweeting of space policy events.

Summer’s Over — Where’s the Space Council?

Yes, it happened. The autumnal equinox. It is now autumn in the northern hemisphere. Summer has come and gone without a meeting of the White House National Space Council as Vice President Pence pledged in July.  But we do hear that the meeting will be “soon.” Whether any of it will be open to public is another matter.  We’ll keep you posted with whatever we hear.

First SLS Launch Slipping to December 2019?

Chris Gebhardt at reports that internal NASA documents show the “launch readiness date” for the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) has slipped to December 15, 2019. A launch readiness date is just that — when the SLS rocket will be ready, not necessarily when it actually will launch. The first launch is designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and will carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft.  SLS, Orion and associated ground systems must all be ready before a launch can take place.

The first SLS launch with a crew, EM-2, now has a launch readiness date of June 1, 2022, according to Gebhardt.  NASA’s official date for EM-2 (meaning they committed to that date at the KDP-C milestone and Congress will hold them to it in terms of cost and schedule) is 2023.  The agency, with congressional backing (i.e., extra money), has been trying to accelerate that date to 2021, but it looks like 2022 is now more likely. is NOT a NASA website, but is a highly respected source of information about NASA’s programs.

NASA conceded in April that EM-1 would slip from late 2018 to sometime in 2019, but has not announced a date. The internal NASA documents on which Gephardt based his story are on his website, but behind a paywall.

Arecibo Update

Nadia Drake (@nadiamdrake) tweeted the first photo of the Arecibo Observatory in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  As we reported yesterday, Arecibo is on Puerto Rico’s north coast and sustained wind speeds of 155 miles per hour.


Arecibo is operated by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA).  It is communicating with staff at the facility via short wave radio.  USRA reported yesterday that everyone who sheltered in place there is OK, but added today that it is still trying to get in touch with staff who remained in their homes.  “The access road is totally covered in debris and inaccessible.”  It is still examining the facility for damage, but, as Drake reported,  the atmospheric radar feed line broke off and “falling debris from it punctured the dish in several places.”  A separate 12 meter dish “used as a phase reference for Very Long Baseline Interferometry was lost.”  Get more information at USRA’s website: [–usra–update-on-arecibo-observatory/].

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