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.
SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed by both houses of Congress calls for the construction of a memorial marker to the crew of Apollo 1 at Arlington National Cemetery. The measure awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
The United States Army will lead the effort to create the memorial in consultation with NASA, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery.
Astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were killed when a flash fire swept through their Apollo 1 command module during a practice countdown on Jan. 27, 1967. The astronauts had been scheduled to fly the first manned test of the spacecraft in Earth orbit the following month.
Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts who became the second American in space aboard Liberty Bell 7 and commanded Gemini 3, the first manned flight of that two-person spacecraft. White became the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 mission. Chaffee was scheduled to make his first spaceflight aboard Apollo 1.
The fire resulted in major overhaul of the troubled Apollo command module. The first manned flight of the Apollo program did not occur until October 1968, more than 20 months after the fire.
The nuclear missile threat posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has proven to be a lifeline to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and its little used Kodiak launch facilities.
Twice during the past month, the U.S. Army launched Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptors from the The Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak. The tests were done under an $80.4 million contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The contract helped revive the struggling agency, which suffered serious damage to its launch facilities in 2014 after a U.S. Army rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. The state-run corporation is eyeing the booming small-satellite market.
One commercial contract that is signed and scheduled for December is with a new space company that cannot now be identified, Campbell said.
Vector Space Systems, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Garvey Spacecraft, has also signed with Alaska Aerospace for test flights of its new Nanosat Launch Vehicle, the Vector-R, in 2018.
A contract that still in negotiation for launches planned in 2018 and 2019, is with Rocket Lab USA, a California-based company that has been in the space business for several years.
Rocket Lab now wants to use Kodiak for launches of its new “Electron” rocket, Campbell said.
Another company in discussions for launches in 2019 is Zero Point Frontiers, based in Alabama, for its 55-foot Xbow Launch Vehicle that will launch small satellites to orbit.
Bothell,Wa. (TUI PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has secured three new contracts with a total value of over $1.25M to develop a robust suite of radio and antenna solutions to enable enable small, affordable satellites to provide high-bandwidth data services.
The US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has awarded TUI a contract to develop SWIFT® transceivers operating at K and Ka-Band frequencies. SMDC has also selected TUI for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to integrate its SWIFT radios with a gimbaled antenna to provide a full steered, multi-frequency, high-bandwidth communications solution for satellites.
Additionally, NASA’s SBIR Program has selected TUI to develop software interfaces for its SWIFT radios to facilitate integration of the radio with electrically-steered arrays (ESAs) and other high-performance antenna solutions.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 24, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, was awarded a contract to research and develop environmentally sustainable monopropellants and gas generators for rocket and missile propulsion and Divert Attitude Control Systems. The company is working with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base; and the U.S. Army Medical Command to develop a new family of high-performing liquid propellants. The effort is funded through the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, an office of the Department of Defense.
Army investigators have found the cause of a rocket failure last August that destroyed an experimental hypersonic test vehicle and caused significant damage to Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex.
“A review of prior launches has found this to be a one-of-a-kind incident that was unexpected,” spokesman John Cummings wrote in response to questions about what went wrong. He said “details of the investigation and findings are not releasable to the public,” though he declined to say why the report is being withheld and whether anyone was found to be at fault for the failure of the protective cover.
“The launch vehicle flight was terminated near the launch pad shortly after liftoff. The correct flight safety protocol and procedures were followed by all mission personnel. Before this launch configuration was used again, corrective action would have to be identified and implemented,” he said.
“The thermal protective cover is designed to regulate motor temperature prior to launch and remains in place until liftoff. Details of the failure review board findings are not releasable to the public,” he said.
The state estimated damages to the complex at $26 million to $29 million. State officials said they expect most of the cost to be covered by insurance.
BOTHELL, WA, 7 November 2013 (TUI PR) – The Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has awarded Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to complete development of a communications system that will enable CubeSats to communicate directly with handheld radios used by Army troops.
TUI’s “SWIFT TacSATCOM” system combines a frequency agile software defined radio with novel deployable antennas to enable these tiny, low power, low cost spacecraft to support soldiers in the field by providing real time access to mission critical data and communications.
Seattle, WA, 31 January 2013 (Andrews Space PR) — Andrews Space (Andrews) announced today that they have been funded by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command to design and deliver a Kestrel Eye Block 2 Earth imaging spacecraft as part of the Army’s Kestrel Eye program.
Under the current effort, known as Kestrel Eye Block 2, Andrews will develop, build and deliver an Earth imaging nanosatellite. The spacecraft embodies a paradigm shift to lower-cost, higher persistence overhead reconnaissance capabilities. While not meant to replace traditional imaging assets, Kestrel Eye Block 2 seeks to augment the current approach to remote sensing by demonstrating the application of low-cost, commercial technologies to enable a new tier of reconnaissance capability.
During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.
My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?
The U.S. Army is leading an effort to develop a dedicated launcher that would be capable of launching nano-satellites into precise orbits from almost any location at an ultra-low cost.
The program is called SWORDS, which stands for Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space. And NASA is a partner in the program, which expects to see an orbital test flight take place in the summer of 2013.