New Player is Getting Ready: Astra Launch History (Updated)

19th Apr 2022
New Player is Getting Ready: Astra Launch History (Updated)

Astra Space is a California-based private aerospace company that specialises in providing fast and cheap access to space in the small payload orbital launch niche, however Astra’s launch history has not always been smooth. Astra Space was founded in 2005 as Ventions LLC and initially worked on the miniaturisation of rocket engine technology in partnership with NASA and DARPA. In 2016, it was reorganised into Astra Space Inc. and changed the focus of activities to the creation of small-lift launch vehicles with a payload capacity of up to 200 kg.

The founders of Astra Space, former NASA IT director Chris Kemp and PhD space engineer Adam London, say they want to create a space analogue of the logistics giant FedEx to massively and affordably send microsatellites and CubeSats to LEO on their rockets. According to Kemp, in the next few years, Astra Space will launch payloads to any place in space, on any schedule, from anywhere on Earth.

Astra rocket compared to Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX

Here’s what the Astra Rocket’s main specs look like compared to the international competition.

RocketPayload, kgLaunch Cost, million $Height, m
Space X Falcon 9up to 22 80052-6270
Virgin Orbit Launcher One300-5001221
Rocket Lab Electron150-2256.517
Astra Space Rocket 375-2052.512
comparison of modern launchers

What benefits can launching with Astra Space bring?

The unprecedented low cost, high mobility and efficiency of Astra Space launch, according to the company CEOs, can really revolutionise the market. The rocket and the entire launch infrastructure can fit in standard shipping containers, allowing for quick delivery up to 24-hours readiness. This makes launching rockets with Astra especially attractive for the military – for example, if necessary, you can start urgent monitoring of a certain territory.

In mid-2020, Astra Space entered into a military contract with the U.S. Space Force for two commercial launches. The total amount of the Astra Space launch contracts is about $150 million (more than 50 launches), and half of its clients are governments of different countries.

In many ways, Astra owes such demand to the speed of its progress. For comparison, it took SpaceX 7 years to develop and launch a rocket into space, Rocket Lab – 12 years, Virgin Orbit‘s Launcher 1 – 13 years, and Astra – only 5 years. In just five years, Astra Space has gone through a full cycle from the development of a carrier to its launch. Three modifications of the Astra rocket were created and tested; however, such an intense pace had its consequences.

Out of 8 Astra launches since 2018, including test ones, only one rocket launch was fully successful. However, Chris Kemp and Adam London consider this to be a normal workflow. They are looking to the future with confidence and getting ready for Astra’s next launch. The company’s shares price is increasing, and Astra Space’s ideas do not dry out. Improved Rocket 4 and Rocket 5 are already being developed and getting ready for Astra Space’s next launch. The Rocket 5 is intended for the rapid delivery of goods via sub orbit from one point on the globe to another. That is, Astra is considering a strategy to enter not only the orbital market but also suborbital launches.

If these grand plans become a reality, the leading micro-launchers Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit will gain a serious competitor as Astra Space progresses. After all, Astra’s rocket launch is many times cheaper, and the launch itself does not require long preparation. There is only one thing left – to increase carrier reliability. After all, the track record of Astra launches is red with failure so far.

Astra rocket launch statistics
Astra rocket launch statistics in 2018 – 2022

Astra rocket launch schedule

Below is the Astra launch schedule starting from the very first launch. We will add to the list of events, so we suggest you bookmark this page if you want to stay updated on each new Astra launch date.

 

#

Date

Rocket Gen

Payload

Customer

Orbit

Launch Site

Result

1

20.07.2018

1

Mass simulator

Test Flight

Sub

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Unknown Failure

2

29.11. 2018

2

Mass simulator

Test Flight

Sub

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Failure (engine breakdown)

3

23.03.2020

3.0

Unknown

DARPA

LEO

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

precluded

Mission failed to launch within the challenge’s launch window due to an issue with a sensor for the guidance, navigation, and control systems. The rocket was reused for the next launch without DARPA involvement, but on 23 March 2020, a fire occurred on the launch pad prior to launch, destroying the rocket

4

12.09.2020

3.1

None

None

LEO

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Failure

Second attempt to launch a Rocket 3 for the first time. Initially intended to be the second of two launches for the DARPA Launch Challenge. 30 seconds after lift off range safety officer shut down engines

5

15.12.2020

3.2

None

None

LEO

Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska

Partial success

First time then Astra rocket could reach its target orbital altitude of 390 kilometers but failed to reach stable orbit due to issues with the upper stage propellant mixture ratio.

6

28.08.2021

3.3/LV0006

STP-27AD1

US Space Force

LEO

Kodiak

Failure

First commercial Rocket 3 demonstration launch for the U.S. Space Force. An engine failure shortly after liftoff caused the rocket to drift sideways off the launch pad before ascending vertically. Range safety ordered engine shutdown, terminating the flight. A fueling system propellant leak was determined to be the root cause of the problem.

7

20.11.2021

3.3/LV0007

STP-27AD2

US Space Force

LEO

Kodiak

Success

8

10.02.2022

3.3/LV0008

BAMA-1, INCA, QubeSat, R5-S1

NASA

LEO

Cape Canaveral

Failure

The ELaNa 41 mission, consisting of four CubeSats, was launched on this flight. An issue occurred after stage separation during flight which prevented delivery of the payloads into orbit.

 

As you can see, Astra rocket launch failures do not bother Astra Team too much. The next launch of Astra Space should have taken place on 20th February. Rocket 3.3 was trying to bring the S4 Crossover base payload platform prototype from NearSpace Launch to SSO.

Stay updated on the Astra launch news, Orbital Today will tell you about Astra rocket launch mission progress and its results.

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