Astra

Courtesy of DARPA

An Astra rocket sits on the launch pad at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak.

California-based vehicle launch start-up Astra will once again attempt to complete its first orbital launch at the Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska in August. 

The window to launch Rocket 3.1 will run from August 2 to 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Astra announced on Twitter on Monday. 

The company announced the upcoming launch nearly four months after an attempt to launch an earlier version of the rocket on March 23 ended with a fire and “hazardous” conditions near the launch site. 

During an earlier attempt, which occurred on March 2, the launch team decided to cancel the launch 53 seconds before liftoff after a sensor reported “unexpected data that could have impacted the success of the flight,” said the company in a statement. 

For the August launch, success will be mostly driven by weather such as lightning and wind, if there are no issues with the rocket itself. 

Alaska Aerospace Corporation CEO Mark Lester said high winds can affect the flight of the rocket, and upper-level winds tend to be stronger than surface winds. 

The team will release weather balloons before the launch to measure wind speeds and direction, temperature and other meteorological conditions up to 100,000 feet. Meteorologists at the complex will also look out for lightning. 

“While Kodiak has very little natural lightning, our launch crew meteorologists monitor thick clouds that could trigger lightning as the rocket passes through,” Lester said. 

He noted that Apollo 12 was struck by lightning on its flight in 1969, which destroyed the rocket’s electronics. Despite the setback, the astronauts were able to reset the systems and have a successful mission. 

A successful launch could open the doors to other kinds of  launches at Kodiak’s spaceport complex — such as commercial launches in addition to those for the military and government — allowing access to space for a wide range of customers, Lester said. 

More companies mean more competition, “which is good for the industry and for customers,” he said. 

Temporary closure of Pasagshak Road to Fossil Beach will occur at the spaceport’s entrance and rocket park starting three hours prior to the scheduled lift-off and will remain in effect until operations have concluded. 

Road closures could be in place between 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the launch window. 

Astra announced last week on Twitter that the rocket passed its second static hotfire test, where the team tests the engine without launching, before it was sent to Kodiak for the August launch.

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