Astra rocket launch scheduled for next week

Astra’s “1 of 3” rocket sits on the launch pad at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak.

A planned rocket launch at the Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska in Kodiak was delayed by a day due to precautions taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Mark Lester. 

Astra, a California-based commercial rocket company,  was planning for a launch window to begin on Monday. But the launch will now happen no earlier than Tuesday, Lester said. The window for possible land, air and maritime closures is scheduled between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday next week. 

“We are making sure we have everyone at the spaceport,” he said. “We are making sure we have an environment that will allow us to be successful.”

Twelve people will be traveling to Kodiak from outside Alaska for the launch, including a team from the Alameda, California-based Astra facility; flight safety officers from White Sands, New Mexico; and individuals from Huntsville, Alabama. They are expected to arrive in Kodiak during the weekend. 

“We are aware of the guidance and the requirements. We are moving seats around in the launch control center. We have been putting a fair amount of thought and practice into doing things differently in order to maintain the distancing for folks coming from outside Alaska,” Lester said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recommends that travelers entering the state from the Lower 48 practice social distancing and refrain from going to work if they cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet between individuals while working. 

The spaceport complex is also minimizing the number of local staff members present during the launch due to the virus. Two part-time staff members were not hired to assist in the launch, and a full-time staff member has been reassigned to a different position so they will not be present at the launchsite. However, Lester said the corporation has not laid off any employees.

“We are trying to look at this from the lens of social distancing,” Lester said, noting that some data collection planned for the launch has been postponed to a future launch to limit the number of people at the site. 

All nine employees who work at the AAC office in Anchorage have transitioned to telecommuting.

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