Astra’s first orbital mission lifted off the ground, but soon returned again.
California space startup launched first test orbital flight tonight (Sept.11), sending its two-stage Rocket 3.1 rocket into the skies from the Pacific Spaceport in Alaska at 11:20 pm ET (7:20 pm Alaska local time and 03:20 GMT on September 12).
The launch vehicle 38 feet (12 meters) high, carrying no payload, did not make it to the final frontier.
“Successful takeoff and departure, but the flight ended during the first leg. It looks like we got a good amount of nominal flight time. There will be more updates! ” Astra tweeted tonight…
Connected: History of missiles
Great shot when Rocket 3.1 leaves the pad! pic.twitter.com/g8uo6N2HQw12 September 2020
The failure was not a shock; Debut flights rarely go smoothly, and Astra has stated bluntly that it does not expect perfection from this. IN prelaunch mission descriptionThe company’s representatives wrote that the main goal was to achieve nominal combustion in the first stage, which would allow Astra to reach orbit in three flights.
It didn’t, but it looks like the company still has enough data to analyze before trying it again. And Astra still strives to get into orbit in three attempts or less.
“We are delighted to have made great progress on our first of three attempts on our way to 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 one more tweet tonight.
We are thrilled to have made great progress on our first of three attempts on our way to orbit! We are incredibly proud of our team; we will check the data, make changes and launch Rocket 3.2, which is almost ready. 📸: @johnkrausphotos pic.twitter.com/K0R7A0Q8wc12 September 2020
Astra plans to provide cost-effective dedicated space missions for smaller satellites that are becoming more and more capable. The company’s website is currently offers delivery services into an orbit of 310 miles (500 kilometers) for payloads from 110 pounds. and 330 pounds. (From 50 to 150 kilograms).
Another Californian company Rocket laboratorycurrently has a stranglehold on this side of the burgeoning small satellite launch market, but Astra thinks it can carve out a significant niche by offering a cheaper alternative.
“What we’re trying to do is create a service that has a lower cost of ownership and a lower cost of launch service,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp said during a teleconference with reporters on July 30. a cheaper rocket, a highly automated plant, a highly automated launch operation, and, in fact, just a real focus on efficiency and cost elimination in all aspects of service so that we can achieve scale and ultimately lower costs through economies of scale and production. “
(SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and other large launch vehicles are also increasingly lifting small spacecraft, but usually as additional “co-trips” on missions whose primary purpose is to deliver one or more large satellites into orbit. Rocket Lab offers special rides for small satellites, as Astra plans to do.)
Thank you @elonmusk. We appreciate this and are encouraged by the progress made today on our first of three flights on our way to orbit https://t.co/CrH8iBYNpS.12 September 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 program. But bad weather and technical problems with the Rocket 3.0 launch vehicle, which was supposed to make this flight, prevented the company from meeting with the narrow starting window of the competition.
The 3.0 missile was damaged at the end of March in preparation for another launch attempt unrelated to the DARPA Launch Challenge. Thus, the orbital launch stage fell on its successor, Rocket 3.1. Bad weather and technical problems delayed the Rocket 3.1’s flight several times, until today.
Today’s launch marks the third launch for Astra, which attempted suborbital flights with two previous versions of the rocket in 2018.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate) on the quest for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.