ABL Space Systems won’t conduct its debut mission in 2022 after all.
The California-based startup tried to launch its RS1 rocket multiple times from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska last month but was thwarted on each occasion by technical issues. Another attempt on Dec. 8 was scrubbed six minutes before liftoff when the launch team noticed abnormal data readings from the rocket.
This latest issue likely has a “thermoelectrical or thermomechanical root cause,” ABL representatives said via Twitter on Tuesday (opens in new tab) (Dec. 13). The company is standing down to address it, pushing the next liftoff attempt into the new year.
“The team is implementing fixes and working towards a launch attempt during our next launch window opening on January 9th,” ABL said in another Tuesday tweet (opens in new tab).
ABL Space Systems, which was founded in 2017, intends to snare a large share of the small-satellite launch market with the RS1.
The 88-foot-tall (27 meters) rocket can deliver up to 2,975 pounds (1,350 kilograms) to low Earth orbit on each flight, according to the company. ABL is currently selling missions aboard the rocket for $12 million apiece.
Though the coming mission is a test flight, the RS1 is carrying operational satellites: The rocket will try to deliver to orbit two cubesats called VariSat-1A and VariSat-1B. The shoebox-sized satellites will test marine data communications operations for the company VariSat LLC, if all goes according to plan.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).