Yet Another Stealth Launch at Wallops (Update)

Keith's 24 Jun 8:30 am EDT note: The launch occured as planned this morning. Yet the Wallops website still refers to it as "upcoming". I complained to Keith Koehler (again) at Wallops PAO. He sent this reply "We put out a launch advisory (see attached) on June 18. However, because of the visibility of the rocket in the local area, it was only issued to the local media. We put these out about 7 days before a launch and also post one when the launch is completed or delayed. In the future, I'll make sure you get these." Gee, by Wallops PAO logic, KSC should only send shuttle media advisories to the media in Florida and Georgia. With regard to press releases, according to this page, the last press release that Wallops issued was in 2009.

My response: "Did it ever occur to you that the families of the students across the U.S. might want to watch the webcast? I am within driving distance of the launch, did it ever occur to you that other DC/Baltimore area media might be interested? Every time you forget to tell people I complain.Every time you respond you say that you will send me the advisories - and you don't. This is just incompetence, Keith. Really. Incompetence."

I followed up with "It has been an hour since launch. Where's the press release? Don't you have these prepared in advance? You have a Twitter feed - doesn't anyone there know how to post pictures from cellphones via Twitpic? Flickr?"

Keith's 24 Jun 10:50 am EDT note: Three hours since launch and no photo or press release at the Wallops home page - but there is a NASA photo on the Wallops Facebook page (below)


Keith's 23 Jun 9:00 pm EDT note: According to the recently revived NASA Wallops Twitter: "RockOn launch tomorrow. Window 6-9 a.m. Webcast @ 5 a.m. http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/webcast" Wallops PAO cannot even muster the energy to send out a media advisory - nor can they seem to find the time to put a simple webcast link on their website. Meanwhile NASA.gov and the NASA Education Office seem to be oblivious to this launch and are still ignoring the fact that it is even happening.

Keith's 23 Jun 10:50 am EDT note: There is supposed to be a launch of a rocket carrying student payloads from across the U.S. tomorrow morning at NASA Wallops. Unless you were really observant, you'd never know that this was going to happen. There is currently no mention on the main NASA.gov page or the students page, the educators page, the media page, or the Education Calendar. There is also no mention of this activity at NASA's main Education page.

There was a NASA Wallops press release dated 11 June announcing the RockOn! launch on 24 June. There have been no media updates since then. To find out what is going on (assuming that you heard about it somewhere) you need to go to the main page at Wallops, select "launch events", go to this page and then WFF Operations Schedule, scroll down to June 24 and click on "Terrier Orion 41.088 Koehler Rock On Launch". The launch is listed but no status or other links are provided. If you happen to know that Wallops has a Twitter account (no mention on their home page or the press release) you will see that there was one posting on 18 June. Nothing since. Indeed, the Wallops Twitter went unused between 27 March and 18 June.

This is not the first time that Wallops PAO has not bothered to do the basic advanced PR work one would expect for a launch activity. Given all of the high-level the focus on NASA's "Summer of Innovation" education extravaganza, one would think that actually launching student experiments into space would be a big deal one worthy of some PAO attention. I guess not.

I used to accept the excuses that the folks at Wallops were understaffed when it came to PAO, outreach, web stuff etc. But this keeps happening again and again. I am now conviced that Wallops management simply does not know what they are doing when it comes to telling taxpayers what it is that they do for them.

The fact that NASA's Education Office is clearly oblivious to the promotion of this sort of event is equally perplexing - especially since there is a national space education conference underway at Wallops - and that experiments on this launch come from all over the U.S.

Artificial Cloud in Space, 20 Sep 2009

"The most recent media advisory I got from Wallops says that the launch will be 15 September. Well, it was yesterday, 19 September. Unless you were glued to Twitter last night (I just happened to be), you would not have known it was yesterday."

Another Stealth Launch From Wallops, 17 Aug 2009

"What a cool project. And the launch - it was one that was likely visible up and down the east coast of the U.S. Too bad NASA only started to tell people about it a few hours before the launch. The only NASA Aeronautics or WFF PAO release was after the fact."

This is Why People Know So Little About Wallops, 8 Jul 2009

"MLAS (Max Launch Abort System) was launched this morning from Wallops. But who knew? Other than several Twitter posts by Wallops PAO (if you don't see them as they flash by you miss them) there was no media advisory, press release, or any other outreach to media. ESMD did nothing as well."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on June 24, 2010 8:30 AM.

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