Astra’s first orbital mission launched, but quickly fell back down again.
The California-based spaceflight startup launched its program The first orbital test flight Tonight (September 11), it sends its two-stage missile, Rocket 3.1, skyward from the Pacific Spaceport complex in Alaska at 11:20 PM EST (7:20 PM Alaska Local Time and 0320 GMT on September 12).
The 38-foot (12 m) booster, which was carrying no loads, did not reach its final limits.
“Take off and fly successfully, but the flight is over while Phase 1 burns out. Looks like we’ve got quite a bit of nominal flight time. More updates are coming!” Astra tweeted tonight.
Related: The history of rockets
Great shot of a 3.1 missile leaving the board! pic.twitter.com/g8uo6N2HQwSeptember 12, 2020
The failure was not a shock. The first flights rarely go quietly, and Astra has openly said that she wasn’t expecting perfection on this flight. in a Description of the pre-launch mission, Company representatives write that the primary goal is to achieve a naming burn in the first stage, which would keep Astra on track to reach orbit in three flights.
It didn’t, but the company still appears to have a reasonable amount of data to analyze before its next attempt. Astra is still aiming to reach orbit in three or fewer attempts.
“We are excited to be making a lot of progress on our first of three attempts en route to orbit! We are extremely proud of our team; we will review the data, make changes and launch the Rocket 3.2, which is nearly complete,” Astra wrote in Another tweet tonight.
We’re excited to have made a lot of progress on our first of three attempts en route to orbit! We are very proud of our team. We’ll review the data, make changes, and launch a nearly complete Rocket 3.2: johnkrausphotos pic.twitter.com/K0R7A0Q8wcSeptember 12, 2020
Astra plans to provide custom and cost-effective flights into space for small satellites, which are becoming more and more capable. The company’s website is currently online Provides delivery services To an orbit of 310 miles (500 kilometers) for payloads weighing between 110 pounds. And 330 lbs. (From 50 to 150 kg).
Another California-based company, Rocket Lab, Has a stifling grip on this side of the growing smallsat launch market at the moment, but Astra believes it can create a huge niche for itself by offering a cheaper alternative.
“What we’re trying to do is build a service that has a lower cost to run, and a lower cost to provide the launch service,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp said during a conference call with reporters on July 30th. Cheaper rocket, highly automated factory, highly automated launch process, and in fact, just a real focus on efficiency and removing costs from every aspect of service so that we can achieve scale and ultimately reduce costs through economies of scale and production. “
(SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket And other large reinforcements are increasingly increasing in smaller spacecraft as well, but in general such as “piggyback” in missions whose main objective is to deliver one or more large satellites into orbit. Rocket Lab offers dedicated mini-satellite tours, Astra plans to do so as well.)
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 initially 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 the Rocket 3.0, the booster scheduled to make this flight, The company banned From meeting the narrow competition launch window.
The 3.0 missile was damaged in late March, during preparations for another launch attempt that did not follow the DARPA Launch Challenge. So the orbital takeoff milestone fell on its successor, the 3.1 missile. Bad weather and technical issues propelled Rocket 3.1’s flight multiple times, even tonight.
Tonight’s launch was the third overall for Astra, which attempted suborbital flights with two previous iterations of missiles in 2018.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Great Publishing House, 2018; drawn by Carl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.