ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's first attempt to put a satellite into orbit has been postponed from September until summer 2001, the executive director of the state's space agency said Wednesday.
The problem doesn't lie with the state's $40 million commercial spaceport on the remote eastern shore of Kodiak Island. The site, including a 170-foot, weatherproof launch tower, is almost compete, said Pat Ladner, executive director of the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp.
The scheduled launch was delayed because of technical problems with the NASA satellite that will ride 261 miles high aboard a 62-foot Lockheed Martin Athena 1 rocket. The laser-equipped satellite is the centerpiece of the Vegetation Canopy Lidar mission, which involves studying Earth's vegetation ''canopy.''
''We'd be ready by September. We're in good shape,'' Ladner said. But the mission was postponed to iron out technicalities with satellite. Most likely, the rocket will blast off in June or July 2001, he said.
The launch promises to be a major event for Alaska. Already, the Kodiak site has hosted the suborbital launch of two military rockets that simulated enemy missile attacks on the Lower 48. The NASA mission will mark the first time something launched from Alaska achieves full orbit.
The space agency, created in 1991, plans to pursue business from both the private companies and the government, said Ladner, a former Air Force launch director.
The state is working to secure a missile launch next March to take part in the military's massive Northern Edge training exercise, and two additional launches to support national missile defense testing, he said.
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