KODIAK — Astra Space Inc., the California-based firm that conducted a test launch at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in July, was granted a second license from the Federal Aviation Association to launch another rocket. The license was issued on October 15 of this year and expires October 14, 2019.
According to a document filed with the FAA, Astra intends to launch “Rocket 2” sometime during the next year. In July of this year, Astra conducted test launches with its “Rocket 1” vehicle, which it is attempting to launch again this week.
The license issued on October 15 is nearly identical to the one issued to Astra for its Rocket 1 vehicle. However, one key difference is that the Rocket 2 vehicle will be “transporting an upper stage mass simulator, instead of an upper stage propulsion system and payload.” Astra’s Rocket 1, on the other hand, was licensed to transport “an inert upper stage.”
Astra will be making another attempt to conduct a second test launch of the Rocket 1 at the end of this week, after a test launch originally scheduled for Oct. 12-16 was scrubbed. AAC’s website states that launch operations at Narrow Cape will take place sometime between October 26 - November 1. The launch window will be on one of those days from 2-6:30 p.m.
Alaska Aerospace Corporation CEO Craig Campbell, who could name neither the company nor the rocket due to a nondisclosure agreement, confirmed that the launch is a reiteration of the scrubbed test launch from earlier this month.
“The launch is a repeat of the customer that tried a few weeks ago,” he said. “Same vehicle, same company.”
A test launch of Astra’s Rocket 1 in July resulted in the termination of the rocket shortly after it took off.
“From our perspective, the launch was 100 percent successful. It launched, it went out for 21 seconds,” said Campbell at an AAC town hall meeting on Sep 12. “The vehicle didn’t perform as expected, so it was terminated prior to reaching its suborbital destination.”
“It was 95 percent successful,” Campbell told the Kodiak Daily Mirror shortly after the launch in July. “They got a whole bunch of data and a lot of good information from this launch, but it didn’t complete its full cycle.”
A representative of the private space company also told KDM that the launch was a success.
“The launch exceeded our minimum success criteria,” he wrote in July. “Our team, customers and investors are all thrilled with the outcome.”
However, earlier this month, KDM reported that the July launch caused damage to the facility and the surrounding areas. According to Campbell, “there was some damage to the exterior walls” of one of the buildings; the repairs are to be paid for by Astra’s insurance. The total area impacted by the incident was “less than a quarter of an acre,” Campbell said.
“We are doing remediation of the impact area for any contamination of the ground,” he added.
Campbell offered no further comment.
Astra remains the only firm that holds an active launch license in Alaska from the FAA. According to Campbell, the rocket firm Vector is planning to conduct a launch in Kodiak, for which it needs an FAA license, before the end of this year.
A representative from Astra Space Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.