The Smithsonian Institution, which already publishes Smithsonian magazine, will launch a new magazine, Air & Space, if its board of regents gives its approval in September.

April 1986 is the tentative publication date, pending a positive response from last week's 250,000-piece direct-mail sampling, said Walter Boyne, director of the National Air and Space Museum.

The regents approved further market research in May after a smaller poll yielded a strong reaction. Boyne said the publication would be "similar to the Smithsonian (magazine), but somewhat more technical," and would cover anything relating to air and space.

Astronauts Sally Ride and Mike Collins have expressed interest in contributing, as have aerodynamicist Paul MacCready and author Edmund Morris, Boyne said.

Air & Space will be independent of Smithsonian magazine, which averaged circulation of 2 million per issue and earned $30 million in advertising revenue last year.

Smithsonian officials aren't heralding Air & Space as a money-making bonanza, however. "We're hoping it would not be a money loser," said Dean Anderson, undersecretary of the Smithsonian.

"Our primary purpose is to provide service and information," Boyne said. "If it makes money, that's great."

So far, the Smithsonian has allocated $245,000 to survey readers and plan Air & Space. Jake Page, former head of exhibition books of the Smithsonian Press, is the temporary editor of the magazine, which so far has an editorial staff of one assistant.