Astra experienced an engine anomaly during its latest rocket launch

25th Sep 2020

On September 12th, Astra performed a rocket launch of its third-generation vehicle series. While the liftoff was successful, Astra’s Rocket 3.1 experienced an anomaly and the vehicle fell down to Earth. 

Astra’s latest rocket launch 

This was the third rocket launch carried out by Astra and while the carrier lifted off the launch pad successfully, the first stage of the rocket engine cut off prematurely, just thirty seconds after the liftoff. As a result, the carrier lost its velocity and fell back to Earth 45 seconds after its liftoff. 

Despite this setback, company representatives do not see this rocket launch as a failure. According to their management, they never expected to reach orbit with their first launch. Astra always believed it would take at least three test launches. The latest one did not meet all company objectives but still gave their team an invaluable experience. According to Astra’s official statement, their guidance system reported slight oscillation, which commanded the engine shutdown. Astra may have lost its rocket, but they still believe they are now closer to reaching orbit than ever. 

Future launch plans

Eventually, Astra plans to launch rockets into sun-synchronous orbit, 310 miles from Earth’s surface. The company’s Rocket 3 version has a payload capacity of up to 310 pounds, is 38 feet high and 4.3 feet wide. This type of carrier can launch small satellites and CubeSats into orbits. Right now, Astra’s prototype is not the only carrier of this kind. Electron from RocketLab has similar capabilities and can already boast several successful launches. Other carriers of the same kind belong to Firefly Aerospace (Alpha) and Virgin Orbit (LauncherOne). 

The anomaly during Astra’s latest rocket launch caused quite a stir in the aerospace industry. Elon Musk, CEO at SpaceX, commented on this event stating that rockets are hard, and it took them four launches before Falcon finally reached orbit. Astra thanked Musk for his support and now stays optimistic. Besides, their name is based on an old Latin saying ‘Per Aspera, as Astra” (to the stars through hardships), which is very symbolic for an aerospace startup. 

After giving more explanation about the latest anomaly, Astra continues to work on its new carrier — Rocket 3.2. This vehicle will be the company’s fourth attempt at a successful rocket launch to orbit, and, hopefully, this one will go well. 

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