Launch planned

A private spaceflight company plans to launch from the Kodiak spaceport.

KODIAK - A commercial spaceflight company will make its third launch attempt from the Kodiak spaceport sometime between July 14-20, according to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation.

If successful, it would be the first commercial launch ever from the spaceport at Narrow Cape.

Since 1998, the AAC has facilitated 19 launches in collaboration with government agencies. In recent years, leadership of the publicly-owned corporation — including CEO Craig Campbell, the former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska — have been looking to court commercial spaceflight companies in the burgeoning industry.

“The market is primed for satellites that need to launch from places with high latitudes like us,” Campbell said during an interview with the Mirror in March.

Because of a non-disclosure agreement, the AAC would not name the company set to launch next month.

But it’s clear that the outfit has had a rocky start trying to launch from Kodiak. Over the last three months, two attempts have been postponed the day of the scheduled event.

On April 6, a launch attempt was scrubbed after an official countdown was initiated. Spaceport employees cited unnamed technical issues.

“It’s very disappointing,” one AAC employee said.

On May 11, another attempt was made. Observers at the rocket launch viewing area witnessed a loud boom coming from the direction of the launch area, with no rocket visible above the treeline. Around 3 p.m. AAC employee Mike Morton wrote on a Facebook post, “Today’s launch activity has been canceled.”

“We’ve tried twice to get their flight off,” AAC Director of Range Operations Barry King said during a board meeting Thursday. “Both times they’ve run into some issues.”

“We’re hopeful we can get this one launched,” he said.

While AAC employees have been careful not to name the outfit, multiple government filings, and a source with inside knowledge of the commercial spaceflight industry, have indicated the company is Astra Space, Inc., a startup based out of Alameda, Calif. A March 30 license filed with the Federal Aviation Authority grants Astra authority for the launch of a suborbital test vehicle called “Rocket 1” from the Kodiak spaceport. The vehicle is meant for testing purposes and will not travel into orbit.

“Flight’ shall mean the suborbital flight of the Rocket 1 launch vehicle,” the license states, “commencing with ignition of the first stage from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska (PSCA). Flight is concluded upon the Rocket 1 vehicle impacting on Earth.”

Astra has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The AAC is looking at a relatively busy summer for commercial operations from the spaceport. Another company, Vector Launch, Inc. — based out of Tucson, Ariz. — also has plans underway to test its vehicle.

A Tuesday Twitter post from the company shows a picture of its Vector-R rocket parked in the spaceport’s Payload Processing Facility, a clean room for preparing vehicles.

“Hello from Kodiak!” the post states. “Awaiting telemetry testing and payload integration dress rehearsals.”

Vector has not filed a license with the FAA, although companies often receive licensure as near as a week prior to launch. The company’s Vector-R vehicle is designed for transporting small satellites into orbit.

A representative of the company could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Vector’s moving along rapidly,” King said. “We’re working with them in parallel with the previous commercial company.”

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