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NOTAMs or How to Find Hidden Launches

29 Jul 2021, 12:15 UTC
NOTAMs or How to Find Hidden Launches
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IMAGE: NOTAM B3895/21, issued July 26, 2021.

You may have noticed that there were no rocket launches this week. It’s not for lack of trying. We were tracking three different launches this week: one in New Zealand, one in Russia, and one in China. There are outlines of stories all written up and almost ready to go. We literally just needed a rocket, any rocket, to launch.

Some space agencies aren’t shy about telling you what is going to launch when. For example, NASA announces launches at Kennedy Space Center months in advance, and there’s an entire industry in the Space Coast to help tourists see a rocket launch during their vacation.

However, not all launches are publicly broadcasted like that. Astra was so secretive that their job postings didn’t list the company name and instead listed themselves as “Stealth Space Company”. As a team, we usually struggle with Chinese launches (they take us by surprise!). Many weeks, we look at our launch schedule sources to pick stories and struggle to find any, until a Chinese launch pops up with hours of notice.

So, how exactly do we know about upcoming rocket launches? The short answer is that, in addition ...

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