Two commercial suborbital launches delayed

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WASHINGTON — Two commercial suborbital launches scheduled for late last week, one a test flight of an orbital launch vehicle and the other of a suborbital research vehicle, have been postponed.

Astra Space was scheduled to perform a suborbital test flight of “Rocket 1,” a small orbital vehicle the stealthy California company is developing, from Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on April 6, based on airspace restrictions published by the Federal Aviation Administration and a notice to mariners by the U.S. Coast Guard.

However, the launch was scrubbed in the final minutes before liftoff, according to a report from a local newspaper, the Kodiak Daily Mirror. The company did not disclose the cause of the scrub, and Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which operates the spaceport on Kodiak Island, did not respond to a request for comment April 9.

A new launch date has not been announced for the mission. Industry sources report that company personnel who traveled to Alaska to support the launch have left, suggesting a new launch attempt is not imminent.

A Texas company, Exos Aerospace, had planned an April 7 launch of its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The company announced the launch date in March after receiving its FAA launch license and completing a hover test of the reusable sounding rocket.

Exos, though, postponed that launch for both weather and technical reasons. John Quinn, chief operating officer of Exos Aerospace, said April 9 that forecasts for the original launch date included winds that exceeded its limits for a safe launch.

He added that the vehicle also vehicle performed “in an anomalous manner” during a subsequent hover test, spinning during the test. That problem, he said, was linked to an intermittent failure of a gyro on the vehicle. “The gyro has been returned to the manufacturer for failure analysis and a spare has been installed,” he said.

Exos has rescheduled that test flight for the morning of May 5 from Spaceport America. Winds are more likely to be favorable, he said, given historic records of conditions there at that time of year. That date, he added, offered an additional benefit: “We can honor Alan Shepard’s 57th anniversary of his historic suborbital flight.”