Astra Celebrates Success

National Aeronautics Space Admininistration An Astra experimental rocket leaves the launch pad at Kodiak Island’s Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska last Friday evening.

Astra Celebrates Success

Alameda-based Astra Space Inc. completed its first commercial orbital rocket launch Friday, Nov. 19, at its Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska.

Astra’s launch system successfully demonstrated the orbital placement of a test payload to an inclination of 86 degrees at an altitude of 497 km or 310 miles, according to Astra Director of Product Management Carolina Grossman. The rocket had a velocity of 7.61 kilometers per second in 8 minutes and 47 seconds. The lower part of the rocket landed in the ocean, while the upper stage dissolved into the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Reaching orbit is a historic milestone for Astra,” said Astra Chairman and CEO Chris Kemp. “We can now focus on delivering for our customers and scaling up rocket production and launch cadence.”

Astra’s goal is to design a rocket that could be mass produced like an automobile. This launch was contracted by the U.S. Space Force through a Defense Innovation Unit Other Transaction Agreement. The mission was called STP-27AD2. It was a test flight with the purpose of learning how to design and build rockets that can be launched into space on a regular basis, according to Grossman. A test payload means the rocket carried weight of a normal payload, but no objects were deployed into orbit.

“In the future the payload will be satellites that will help improve life on Earth like monitoring the warming of oceans and deforestations,” said Grossman.

The rocket that launched is called the Astra Rocket 3. The launch vehicle is called LV007. The Astra Rocket 3 is 11.6 meters long with a diameter of 1.32 meters. It is designed to carry 100 kilograms in Lower Earth Orbit.

Grossman said that Astra builds smaller rockets because they are easier to produce and transport. The rocket was built in just a few months and assembled at Astra’s Alameda headquarters at 1900 Skyhawk St. The rocket and other launch materials were then transported to Kodiak by trucks and aircraft.

Grossman said Alaska is a great location for launching rockets because it’s over the ocean, which keeps the rocket away from people and they work with the government to keep planes and ships from the rocket’s path.

“Also, lots of satellites for Earth imaging and observation want to go to polar orbits, which go over the north and south poles, so they can observe all points of the Earth’s surface,” said Grossman. “Launching from Kodiak make it easier to get to those orbits.”

This is the first successful Astra Rocket 3 launch out of four attempts. Grossman said the last failed attempt in August was the result of fuel and oxidizer leaking and combining, causing some electronic components on the engine to shut down.

“We owe this success to our incredible team and the culture we’ve built at Astra.” said Adam London, Co-Founder and CTO of Astra. “I’m humbled by their courage and commitment to keep building, launching, learning, and iterating until we succeeded.”

Astra was founded in 2016. It has launch agreements with the U.S. Space Force and NASA. It plans to launch 300 rockets per year by 2025.

To view the launch, visit https://bit.ly/3cJhUD2.