Kodiak spaceport asks for longer window after canceled launches

The nose of Astra’s Rocket, named “One of Three,” pokes out of a shipping container at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on February 21, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation says the windows for recent launch attempts at Kodiak Pacific Spaceport were too narrow. Astra, a California-based company, tried to send its 3.1 rocket into space on four different days, each within a two-hour window.

The president of Alaska Aerospace, Mark Lester, says it’s not unusual to have launches called-off during the testing phase, but a bigger window might improve the success rate.

“We’re negotiating with the FAA, the Coast Guard and others to determine if two hours is most appropriate or if we can negotiate a slightly longer window,” Lester said.

The FAA and Coast Guard must sign off on launch windows and consider the impacts to trans-Pacific flights and the fishing fleet. Lester says Alaska Aerospace hopes to expand the window by an hour, or at least by 30 minutes, which might have made some of the recent canceled launches possible.

The Sunday, Aug. 2 launch was scrubbed after a boat wandered into the safety zone.

“For public safety, we closed the launch opportunity,” Lester said. “That’s unfortunate, because the speed of the boats takes a couple of hours to get through the closure areas.”

They had to call off three more launches that week, all for different reasons: delays in loading rocket propellant, a problem with the rocket’s drainage system and strong winds in the upper atmosphere.

The new launch schedule starts on August 30 and ends on September 3. For now, the FAA has only approved a two-hour window for each launch attempt.

Astra hopes its 3.1 rocket can drive down the costs of sending rockets into space. It’s smaller in size — compact enough to fit into a shipping container and be towed by a truck — but capable of sending a satellite into low orbit.

Lester says the rocket, if it’s successful, could open up a lot of economic opportunity for Alaska. He says launch vehicles like the Astra 3.1 are needed for telecommunications and monitoring the earth as well as for military and government ventures.

KMXT - Kodiak

KMXT is our partner station in Kodiak KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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