Astra’s first orbital mission was launched but soon came back.
The California-based aerospace startup has its first orbital test flight Tonight (September 11th) it will launch its 3.1 two-stage rocket off the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska at 11:20 p.m. EDT (7:20 p.m. Alaska time and 0320 GMT on September 12).
The 12 meter high booster, which was not carrying any payloads, did not make it to the last limit.
“Successful take-off and take-off, but the flight ended during the first phase of the burn. It looks like we have a good nominal flight time. More updates to come!”
Connected: The history of the missile
Great setting of Rocket 3.1 when exiting the pad! pic.twitter.com/g8uo6N2HQwSeptember 12, 2020
The failure wasn’t a shock; Debut flights are seldom swimming, and Astra had specifically stated that he did not expect perfection in this case. In one Description of the mission before the startCompany officials wrote that the main goal is to achieve nominal first stage combustion that would keep Astra on track to reach orbit within three flights.
That didn’t happen, but it seems the company still has some data to analyze before trying again. And Astra is still aiming to get into orbit in three attempts or fewer.
“We are happy to have made a lot of progress on our first of three attempts to enter orbit! We are incredibly proud of our team. We will review the data, make changes, and launch Rocket 3.2, which is almost complete. ” Astra wrote in another tweet tonight.
We’re happy to see that we made a lot of progress on our first of three attempts on our way into orbit! We are incredibly proud of our team. We will review the data, make changes and launch Rocket 3.2 which is almost complete. @: @johnkrausphotos pic.twitter.com/K0R7A0Q8wc September 12, 2020
Astra plans to offer low-cost, dedicated trips into space for small satellites that are becoming increasingly powerful. The company’s website currently offers delivery services for payloads weighing between 110 pounds and in orbit of 500 kilometers. and 330 lbs. (50 to 150 kilograms).
Another California-based company, Rocket Lab, currently has a stranglehold on this side of the growing Smallsat startup market, but Astra believes it can carve out a sizable niche for itself by offering a cheaper alternative.
“We’re trying to build a service that has a lower cost of ownership and a lower cost of providing the launch service,” said Chris Kemp, CEO of Astra, during a conference call with reporters on July 30th, cheaper missile, highly automated factory, highly automated launch and real just a real focus on efficiency and cost reduction in all aspects of service so that we can achieve economies of scale through economies of scale and production and ultimately reduce costs. “”
(SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and other large boosters increasingly lofted small spaceships as well, but generally as piggyback rides for missions whose main purpose is to put one or more large satellites into orbit. Rocket Lab offers dedicated rides for small satellites, as Astra plans to do.)
Thanks @elonmusk. We appreciate that and are encouraged by the progress we have made today on our first of three flights en route to orbit. Https://t.co/CrH8iBYNpSSeptember 12, 2020
Astra originally planned to launch its first orbital mission in February or March of this year as part of the $ 12 million DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launch challenge. But bad weather and technical problems with Rocket 3.0, the booster planned for this flight, prevented the company from hitting the tight start window of the competition.
Rocket 3.0 was damaged in late March while preparations were being made for another launch attempt unrelated to the DARPA Launch Challenge. The milestone for the take-off of orbit fell to its successor, Rocket 3.1. Bad weather and technical problems drove Rocket 3.1’s flight back several times until this evening.
Today’s launch marked the third overall win for Astra, which attempted suborbital flights with two previous missile iterations in 2018.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for another’s life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.