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Canceled rocket launch not fault of Kodiak complex, official says

An effort by a state-owned Alaska corporation to host commercial rocket launches for the first time hit a snag last week when a planned launch for a private company was canceled before liftoff.

John Cramer, chief of staff at Alaska Aerospace in Anchorage, confirmed that a launch had been canceled Friday at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak.

He would not say the name of the private customer that had planned to launch the rocket, or provide specific details about the cancellation.

"I can tell you this, as far as the reason it wasn't able to launch had nothing to do with our facilities or our being ready to go," Cramer said, on Monday.

The launch was canceled minutes before liftoff, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

The launch was part of the state-owned corporation's effort to capitalize on a growing trend among private companies to send relatively small rockets into space carrying increasingly smaller satellites, Cramer said.

"It's not a setback for us," Cramer said Monday. "It may be a setback for the customer, only because everyone wants to get to space and there is such a backlog of satellite and instrumentation that needs to get into space."

Early last week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it had issued a commercial launch license to Astra Space, based in Alameda, California, for a suborbital flight from Kodiak that would return to Earth. The license was recognition the company was preparing for a launch, according to an online report by SpaceNews.

Cramer last month told the Anchorage Daily News that a California customer wanted to launch in the coming weeks, with Friday the last day of a hoped-for launch period.

Cramer said last month the launch would let the company test its rocket and gather data toward the goal of perfecting it. For the test, the rocket would not carry a satellite or go into orbit, but would splash down in the ocean, Cramer said.

Since 1998, the complex has hosted 19 government-related space launches, not counting a failed launch in 2014 when a rocket exploded. A military review of that incident found "no issues" with the state range, though few details were released to the public.

Cramer on Monday said the aerospace corporation has four commercial customers. But only two, Vector Space Systems and Rocket Lab USA have agreed to let the corporation disclose the relationship.

Vector is based in Tucson, Arizona; Rocket Lab is based Huntington Beach, California.

Cramer said the launch facility's overall track record has been "very good."

Launches are canceled for various reasons, including poor weather or rockets not being ready, he said. The business is inherently risky and there are numerous safeguards to ensure safe operations.

"And there can be issues with a launch complex where they may have equipment not working, or it may be outdated. There all kind of reasons. But that has not been the experience with our spaceport," Cramer said.

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