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Photo: NASA

The last company vying for a $12 million DARPA prize for launching rockets two times from two locations with little notice could stage its first flight as early as this week.

The big picture: DARPA's launch challenge is designed to simulate a real-life scenario that the military may require of its launch providers in the future.

  • If, for example, the military needs immediate eyes on a part of Earth that can't be easily surveyed by other means, having this rapid-launch capability could mean getting a small satellite to orbit and in operation quickly to help.

Details: The company — named Astra — was originally aiming to launch its first rocket from Kodiak, Alaska, on Tuesday, but bad weather in the area has pushed the attempt back.

  • The launch window for the first attempt is open until Sunday, but depending on the weather, DARPA may extend that window.
  • To win the full $12 million, the company will then need to launch a second rocket once the second launch window opens in mid-March from a different pad at the same launch site in Alaska.
  • Originally, it was expected that DARPA would request that the company stage one launch from Alaska and the other from another launch facility, but concerns over logistics caused the agency to pick two different launch pads at the same site instead.

Between the lines: Astra isn't hanging its hopes on winning the DARPA challenge to make its business successful. CEO Chris Kemp told Axios that Astra doesn't expect its first launch will get a satellite to orbit.

  • The company instead sees the launch series as a way of testing its rocket and changing things as needed.
  • "We're not aiming for perfection," Kemp told Axios earlier this month. "We're aiming for overall economics that we can offer our customers and offer our shareholders."
  • Astra plans to focus on launching small satellites whose operators are looking for a deal on getting into space more cheaply than other options.

Go deeper: You can watch the launch webcast live through DARPA.

Go deeper

10 mins ago - Health

FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Cezary Kowalski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

Dave Lawler, author of World
11 mins ago - World

Schiff: "Definitive" Khashoggi report sends clear message to Saudis

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The report released Friday on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was short on evidence or new information, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tells Axios that the “definitive” statement assigning responsibility to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) speaks volumes.

What he’s saying: Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, says that while some intelligence couldn’t be published because of the need to protect sources and methods, “we rarely see something published that is this definitive and I think that's an important accomplishment for the administration.”

Exclusive: Law enforcement organizations back Biden pick for assistant AG

Vanita Gupta Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.