Astra suffers anomaly following first orbital-attempt liftoff
Astra suffered a setback during their first orbital attempt, as their Rocket 3 series rocket lifted off into the skies over Launch Pad 3B in Kodiak, Alaska at 7:19 P.M. ADT, before an anomaly occurred causing the rocket to fall back to earth.
The test, dubbed 3.1, started as most launches do, with the vehicle lifting off the pad successfully. However during the first stage burn, approximately 30 seconds into flight, the first stage engines cut off early, causing the rocket to burn off its velocity before beginning to fall back to the earth. After about 45 seconds, the intact first stage impacted the earth and exploded, resulting in the loss of the vehicle.
Astra released a statement on the launch attempt and anomaly, stating “As we’ve always said, we expect it to take three flights to make it to orbit. Tonight, we saw a beautiful launch! Preliminary data review indicates the rocket performed very well. Early in the flight, our guidance system appears to have introduced some slight oscillation into the flight, causing the vehicle to drift from its planned trajectory leading to a commanded shutdown of the engines by the flight safety system. We didn’t meet all of our objectives, but we did gain valuable experience, plus even more valuable flight data. This launch sets us well on our way to reaching orbit within two additional flights, so we’re happy with the result.”
The Astra Rocket 3 stands at a height of 38 feet, and is around the size of a traditional school bus, with a diameter of 4.3 feet and a payload capacity of between 55 and 331 pounds to a 310 mile Sun-Synchonous Orbit. The rocket is within the same class of small-sat launch vehicles as the already successful Rocket Lab with their Electron rocket, as well as newcomers Firefly with their Alpha rocket, and Virgin Orbit with their LauncherOne rocket.
For Astra, their company name draws some similarities to the old Latin saying “Ad Astra, per Aspera” (Through Hardships, to the Stars.) For the new launch provider, a more appropriate analogy can not be given. SpaceX owner and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk took to Twitter to give his support for the company, referencing his own first failures with Falcon 1 when the now history making SpaceX first began.
— Astra (@Astra) September 12, 2020
In the blog post, Astra also stated their plans following the anomaly, stating that over the next several weeks, they will be taking a close look at the flight data to determine how to make the subsequent attempts more successful. The next rocket, Rocket 3.2, is already built and will soon be making its attempt to make history for the company, as their first orbital launch.
A native of Lonedell, Missouri, Michael McCabe is a former Long Island firefighter and emergency medical technician. He is a non-active Florida EMT with 20 years of fire rescue experience. He is also a lifelong science fiction and space enthusiast. At the age of 10, he watched in his school classroom as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. In 2008, he moved to the Sunshine State and works as a private tour guide at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for a private company based in Orlando. McCabe has been a fan of SpaceFlight Insider since our inception in 2013. He reached out to ask how he could assist our efforts to spread space flight awareness. Shortly thereafter, he was welcomed into our expanding team.