Pacific Spaceport Complex

A helicopter conducts a sweep to make sure the area is clear prior to a scheduled launch at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Sunday.

KODIAK — In what’s become a familiar scene for observers at the Kodiak spaceport, a commercial rocket launch was scrubbed the day of a planned flight test over the weekend.

A private company’s suborbital rocket test was all sound, no fury after a loud boom was heard around 2:25 p.m. under partly cloudy skies, but no rocket was visible from the spaceport’s viewing area.

Details were not forthcoming from the company or the Alaska Aerospace Corporation due to a non-disclosure agreement. But it recalled a similar occurrence on Friday, May 11, when a loud boom was heard around 1:30 p.m. coming from the direction of the launch area, with no vehicle in sight. A few hours later that day, a social media post from spaceport employee Mike Morton stated that the launch had been canceled.

A prior test, on April 6, was also scrubbed.

According to Tim Fernholz, a technology writer and author of “Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race,” failed launches are to be expected from nascent spaceflight companies.

“The only way to test a rocket is to actually launch it,” he said over email. “Most rockets fail multiple times during test missions before they are declared operational.” Rocket Lab, another AAC customer, had two launches scrubbed this summer due to mechanical concerns.

But for a handful of observers hoping to capture the action Sunday, some pointing their smartphones in the direction of the launch area, the nonevent was a disappointment. 

The AAC said no further launch activities were planned through Wednesday. The company’s launch window lasts through Friday, so it could make another attempt later this week.

The AAC was careful not to name the outfit, but public filings with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission suggest it is Alameda, Calif.-based Astra Space, Inc., the only company currently licensed to launch from the Kodiak spaceport.

According to a March 30 license filed with the FAA, Astra is authorized to launch its vehicle dubbed Rocket 1, “on a suborbital trajectory without a payload” from the Pacific Spaceport Complex.

Still anticipating its first commercial launch from Kodiak, the AAC has helped facilitate 19 launches in collaboration with federal agencies including NASA and the Department of Defense.

 

 

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