There were 15 flight tests of eight suborbital boosters in 2018, including six flights of two vehicles — Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard — that are designed to carry passengers on space tourism rides.
The race to provide launch services to the booming small satellite industry also resulted in nine flight tests of six more conventional boosters to test technologies for orbital systems. Two of the boosters tested are designed to serve the suborbital market as well.
A pair of Chinese startups took advantage of a loosening of government restrictions on launch providers to fly their rockets two times apiece. There was also suborbital flight tests of American, Japanese and South Korean rockets.
Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.
The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)
Officials at the Pacific Spaceport Complex did not give a cause for why an April 6 was scrubbed earlier this month, but confirmed the decision was not related to the spaceport facilities, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Friday.
The new launch is scheduled for May 10 or May 11, said Mike Morton, a director of the Alaska Aerospace Corp….
The documents filed last month for the previous planned launch indicated that Astra was authorized to send up a suborbital vehicle to carry “an inert upper stage on a suborbital trajectory without a payload.”
Astra Space is set for the first flight of its new small-satellite launcher on Thursday from Alaska.
The FAA has granted a launch license to the California company for a suborbital flight of Rocket 1 from Launch Pad 2 at the Pacific spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.
A notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the launch has been posted for April 5 at 2000 UTC and ending on April 6 at 0200 UTC (12 to 6 p.m. AKDT /4 to 10 p.m. EDT).
Details are sparse about the company and booster. However, it is believed that the two-stage rocket will be capable of placing a payload weighing up to 100 kg into orbit.
The Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the Kodiak spaceport, has billed the flight as the first of what it hopes will be many commercial launches from the underused facility.
Formerly known as Ventions LLC, Astra Space is operating under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and flight test a high performance electric pump-fed launch vehicle. The 18-month contract runs through mid-December.
Founded in 2004, the company has been awarded 29 contracts worth nearly $21 million over the past 11 years from NASA, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army.
At some point in the next few weeks, the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska will host its first commercial rocket launch. Officials at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the spaceport, are hoping the suborbital test flight is the first of many commercial flights from the underused facility.
While officials have not identified the California company conducting the launch, a perusal of the corporation’s board minutes indicate it is almost certainly a small Bay Area startup named Astra Space.
The rocket in the picture is being developed by Astra Space, Inc., which was formerly known as Ventions, before the company reincorporated under its present name in September 2016, according to documents on file with the City of Alameda.
Astra Space moved into Building 397 in the Alameda Point Enterprise Zone under a license from the city on Nov. 22, 2016. In January 2017, the City Council approved a two-year lease with three one-year renewal options on Jan. 3, 2017. The base rent began at $12,134.50 per month.
“Astra Space designs, tests, manufactures, and operates next-generation launch services that will enable a new generation of global communications, earth observation, precision weather monitoring, navigation, and surveillance capabilities,” according to a synopsis prepared for the council.
The company started with about 25 employees in the building with plans to grow to as many as 100 employees within five years, according to city documents.
The booster burns kerosene and liquid oxygen, the records state.