Courtesy of Stacy Studebaker

A rocket at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Kodiak. 

Last week, a rocket was quietly placed on a launch pad at Pacific Spaceport Complex. But unlike the build-up to previous launches, there has been no official communication saying who plans to do what, even though the Kodiak-based rocket launch facility is generating more interest than ever before.

What is known is that ABL Space Systems is working in Kodiak, according to Alaska Aerospace Corp.’s Chief of Staff Steve Wackowsky. 

ABL is a rocket company that creates vehicles to send small satellites into orbit. It has been previously reported that ABL plans to test launch one of its vehicles, the RS1, from Kodiak before the end of the year.

ABL plans to use the RS1 in a mission it will carry out with NASA. In 2023, the RS1 rocket will be used in NASA’s Cryogenic Demonstration Mission, which will study the impact of low temperatures in space on technology that uses hydrogen. 

Neither Dan Piemont, president of ABL, nor the company’s General Counsel Erin Weber, could be reached for comment.

For the past month, employees from ABL have been on the island setting up for the next launch, Piemont said in a past interview. At any given point, there have been between 10 and 30 employees on the island.

Alaska Aerospace, the state-run company that owns Pacific Spaceport Complex, does not decide when rocket launches will occur. That is a decision made between Alaska Aerospace’s clients, the Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Coast Guard has not announced any warnings for upcoming launches, but it is not required to, according to Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Alissa Blackburn. In the past, when the Coast Guard made announcements, it did so after it was notified by companies of upcoming launch plans. However, these notifications are a matter of courtesy, Blackburn said. So far, the Coast Guard has not been cued into any information about upcoming launches.

The Federal Aviation Administration did respond to questions about whether it knew of an upcoming launch.

There are two other companies that have expressed interest in launching from the Spaceport in the near future: AgniKul Cosmos and Astra Space Inc. Like ABL, Astra has announced its intent to launch from the Spaceport before the end of the year, while AgniKul has stated that it would like to have a launch from the Spaceport in early 2022. 

Astra has launched three rockets from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in the past two years. The trade publication SpaceNews said they all failed to reach orbit.

Ahead of the last launch, Astra made an agreement with Alaska Aerospace to use the Pacific Spaceport Complex for the next five years. 

AgniKul is a rocket manufacturer based out of Chennai, India. Like ABL, it builds launch vehicles to send satellites into orbit. Unlike ABL, AgniKul specializes in micro and nano satellites. 

Spokespeople from Astra and AgniKul could not be reached.

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