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Another Stealth Launch From Wallops

By Keith Cowing
August 17, 2009

NASA Launches New Technology: An Inflatable Heat Shield
“A successful NASA flight test Monday demonstrated how a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.”
Keith’s note: 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. No media advisory was sent out in advance, no advance press release, no contact of metro area media – nothing. At a time when everyone seems to be in a quandry as to what value NASA provides to the public, you’d think that a little more PR would be in order – especially given the number of peopel vacationing on the shore who could have been tipped off to what was happening.
Although something is posted here dated 10 August, you’d have to be a regular visitor to the Aeronautics page to have seen it. To their credit the Wallops folks did Twitter about the launch but unless you just happend to check Twitter at 4:09 pm on 13 August before new Tweets rolled in, you would have never known there was going to be a launch until early today. If you were checking Twitter around 6 am EDT today you would have seen that a countdown was underway. Also, the Wallops PAO office is not exactly large 1-2 people on a good day. That said, Aeronautics PAO at NASA HQ could have been much more proactive in this regard. How much work does it take to issue a simple who/what/when/where media advisory for something like this? Too much, it would seem.
People in the aeronautics world are always complaining about a lack of visibility for what they do. Given this stealth launch today, I can understand why they feel this way. The same goes for Wallops – what do they do over there? Well, one look at their press release page would suggest that they have not done anything that is newsworthy since 6 May 2008.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.