Rocket builder Astra Space launched its first rocket since the company went public on Saturday. After a wobbly launch, the missile failed to reach orbit.
On takeoff, the rocket appeared to move sideways instead of straight up. Astra founder, chairman and CEO Chris Kemp told The Washington City Times that an engine failed about a second after the flight. The company is currently investigating the reason.
Astra founder and Chief Technology Officer Adam London added that the system performed relatively well under the circumstances. The rocket had enough thrust, even with one engine off, to take off very slowly from the platform, and the guidance system maintained control of the rocket.
About 2 minutes and 28 seconds into the flight, the flight safety crew issued an order to shut down all engines, bringing the missile to a halt, the CEO said. It reached an altitude of about 50 kilometers and returned to Earth without injury or damage to property.
“Obviously it wasn’t successful getting anything into orbit, but it was a flight we learned a tremendous amount from,” Kemp told The Washington City Times. “We have a serial 7 that’s in production right now and we’ll take what we’ve learned here and incorporate all the changes into that rocket and fly it soon.”
“We have a huge amount of data from the flight and are in the process of reviewing it,” he added.
The executives declined to provide a timeline for completing the study, or building a new rocket and next flight.
Astra interrupted its first launch attempt on Friday, with the rocket’s engines firing briefly and then shutting down.
On Saturday, after a brief hiatus due to fuel problems, Astra launched the rocket LV0006 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska around 3:35 p.m. local time.
This was the first commercial launch for Astra, with the US Space Force contracting the launch to test a payload as part of its Space Test Program.
The vehicle is 43 feet long and fits into the small rocket segment of the launch market. Astra’s goal is to eventually launch as many of its small rockets as possible, aiming to launch one rocket per day by 2025 and lower the $2.5 million price even further.
Saturday’s mission, which was rescheduled after Astra aborted a launch attempt on Friday, tested several upgrades to Astra’s rocket since the last mission in December. While that earlier mission reached space, the rocket ran out of fuel and just missed orbit.
LV0006 on the launch pad in Kodiak, Alaska.
One of the company’s rockets encountered a problem with its guidance system during the company’s first mission earlier last year, and it crashed after takeoff.
Astra teamed up with NASA Spaceflight — a space industry content organization not affiliated with the US agency — to webcast Saturday’s launch.
This is a story in development, check back for updates.