Astra Plans Next Launch in Late August From Kodiak Island

Video Caption: The Final System Test, also known as the “hot fire” engine test for Astra’s Launch Vehicle 0006.

Astra is hoping the third time will be a charm.

The publicly-traded launch provider will make another attempt to reach orbit with its Rocket 3 booster late this month from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island. The window for the launch attempt opens on Aug. 27 and runs until Sept. 11.

Astra’s first commercial launch includes a payload for the U.S. Space Force (USSF). It is the first of two launches ordered by the military service.

Astra’s two previous orbital launch attempts failed. The first rocket was destroyed shortly after launch in September 2020 after it began to veer off course. A second rocket launched last December reached space but lacked sufficient velocity to enter orbit.

On July 1, Astra became a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq exchange after a merger with Holicity.

Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Astra Acquires Apollo Fusion

ALAMEDA, Calif. (Astra PR) — Today, we announced that Astra will acquire Apollo Fusion. This acquisition enables Astra to efficiently deliver and operate throughout our solar system, and brings incredible technology and talent into our team.

So, what is this all really about? At Astra we’re focused on rapid and affordable access to space. This really requires two kinds of transportation: You always have to first fly from Earth to a low orbit on the edge of space, and Astra shines in getting you to the best possible low orbit for your mission. However, often you need to keep going — to fly higher in space for your operational mission. And this is where Apollo comes in.

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Astra Announces Multi-launch Contract with Planet Labs

Rocket 3.1 after liftoff from Kodiak Island in Alaska. (Credit: Astra)

ALAMEDA, Calif. (Astra PR) — We are thrilled to be working with Planet Labs on a multi-launch mission in 2022. This is a milestone for both of our companies, and creates an important inflection point as we begin delivering launch services to our customers that are creating a healthier and more connected planet.

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NASA Awards Contract to Astra Space for 3 Launches

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 on the launch pad. (Credit: John Kraus)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Astra Space Inc. to provide a launch service for the agency’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission. The TROPICS mission consists of a constellation of six CubeSats and will increase the scientific community’s understanding of storm processes.

The launch service contract for the TROPICS mission is a firm fixed-price contract valued at $7.95 million. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the launch service.

The CubeSats, each the size of a shoebox, will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements that can be used to determine temperature, pressure, and humidity inside hurricanes as they form and evolve. The TROPICS mission’s high-revisit imaging and sounding observations are enabled by microwave technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. These observations will profoundly improve scientists’ understanding of processes driving high-impact storms.

Astra Space will launch the CubeSats on the company’s Rocket 3 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands with three separate launches over a 120-day period. The TROPICS mission is targeted for launch between Jan. 8 and July 31, 2022, under a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch license.

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

Astra SPACs its Way onto NASDAQ

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 on the launch pad. (Credit: John Kraus)

Launch provider to become first publicly traded space company on NASDAQ through merger with Holicity

ALAMEDA, Calif., February 2, 2021 – Astra, the fastest privately-funded company in history to demonstrate orbital launch capability, and Holicity Inc. (NASDAQ: HOL) (“Holicity”), a special purpose acquisition company (“SPAC”), today announced a definitive business combination agreement that will result in Astra becoming a publicly traded company. The transaction reflects an implied pro-forma enterprise value for Astra of approximately $2.1 billion. Upon closing, the transaction is expected to provide up to $500 million in cash proceeds, including up to $300 million of cash held in the trust account of Holicity and an upsized $200 million PIPE led by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.

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Video: Astra Rocket Flies to Space

Astra Space’s Rocket 3.2 reached space but came up just short of reaching orbit on Tuesday after launch from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

Astra Rocket 3.2 Launch Window has Opened

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 on the launch pad. (Credit: John Kraus)

Update: Astra stood down on Friday due to weather.

Editor’s Note: Astra said it will begin tweeting 15 minutes prior to a launch attempt. Follow https://twitter.com/Astra for updates.

ROCKET 3.2 PRESS KIT

LAUNCH WINDOW

11 December – 18 December

DAILY LAUNCH OPPORTUNITY

10:00 am– 1:00 pm Kodiak Time
11:00 am – 2:00 pm Pacific Time
6:00 – 9:00 pm UTC

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Chinese Kuaizhou 1A Rocket Fails After Launch

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Kuaizhou 1A rocket failed to orbit the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C optical remote-sensing satellite after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday afternoon.

The official Xinhua news agency attributed the failure to the “abnormal performance” of the launch vehicle. An investigation has commenced.

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Astra Rocket Falls Back to Earth, Explodes on Impact

Astra’s attempt to launch its Rocket 3.1 booster from Alaska came to grief on Friday as the first stage failed in flight, causing the booster to fall back to Earth where it exploded on impact.

“Successful lift off and fly out, but the flight ended during the first stage burn,” the company tweeted. “It does look like we got a good amount of nominal flight time. More updates to come!”

Dramatic video posted on Twitter showed the rocket lift off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island. The roar of the engine suddenly stopped, and the rocket fell to Earth.

“We are excited to have made a ton of progress on our first of three attempts on our path to orbit! We are incredibly proud of our team; we will review the data, make changes and launch Rocket 3.2, which is nearly complete,” Astra tweeted.

Rocket 3.1 after liftoff from Kodiak Island in Alaska. (Credit: Astra)

Astra, which is based in Alameda, Calif., is attempting to develop an inexpensive rocket capable of launching payloads weighing 25–150 kg (55–331 lb) to a 500 km (311 mile) high sun-synchronous orbit for the ultra-low price of $1 million per flight.

Astra Space Schedules Next Launch Attempt for Aug. 2

Astra team with rocket. (Credit: Astra)

Astra has announced it will attempt another launch of its small-satellite booster from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak island next month.

“We’re excited to announce that our 6-day launch window starts on August 2nd and is open from 12:30-4pm PT each day!” the company tweeted.

Astra has developed a 38-foot-tall (11.6 m) rocket designed to launch payloads weighing 50–150 kg (110–331 lb) to a 500 km (311 mile) sun-synchronous orbit.

Military Smallsat Launch Contracts Withdrawn, Future Remains Uncertain

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

Easy come, uneasy go.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced it would award two rideshare launch contracts apiece to Aevum, Astra, Rocket Lab, Space Vector, X-BOW and Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space.

Earlier this month, however, the contract awards were withdrawn so the $116 million in funding could be used for other priorities. The money came from the Defense Production Act, which is designed to help companies struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

C4ISRnet quotes Will Roper, Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, as saying the contracts could be awarded again.

“My hope is that whenever there’s new [Defense Production Act] Title 3 funding or when resource frees up due to other efforts not executing as planned, that those [contracts] are the first to go back into the hopper,” Roper told reporters Tuesday.

“If I were asked today to put in one new Title 3 initiative, it’s small launch because I think it’s going to be an amazing industry base for this country, and if properly influenced, my military mission can be highly disruptive in future war fighting, especially if satellites can be put up in a very responsive way that changes the calculus for holding space assets at risk.”

Of the six companies, only Rocket Lab has launched satellites into orbit. Astra has failed in several launch attempts. The maiden flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne failed in late May.

Aevum, Space Vector and X-BOW have not made any orbital launch attempts.

SMC Announces Plan to Award Contracts for 12 Rideshare Launches to 6 Companies

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

In an effort to support its industrial based during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has announced its intention to award 12 small satellite rideshare launches to six companies.

The awards will be made to:

  • Aevum
  • Astra
  • Rocket Lab USA
  • Space Vector
  • VOX Space
  • X-Bow.
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SMC Awards $309 Million Contracts for Rapid Weather Prototyping Efforts

EWS Notional Distributed Architecture (Credit: SMC EWS Program)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (SMC PR) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has awarded three Other Transaction Authority agreements, totaling $309 million, to develop prototypes for the Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) program. The awardees, each a member of the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), are:  

  • Raytheon Technologies
  • General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group (subcontractors: EO Vista/Atmospheric & Environmental Research (AER)/Braxton Technologies)
  • Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates (ASTRA) (subcontractors: Tyvak/Science & Technologies Corps (STC)/AER/Lockheed Martin)
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Astra Emerges From Stealth, Shooting for $1 Million Per Launch

Astra Introduction Video from Chris Kemp on Vimeo.

Ashlee Vance also has a story at Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-astra-rocket/

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Astra’s next launch is scheduled for Feb. 21 from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island;
  • previous two launches suffered in-flight failures;
  • payload will be up to 450 lb (204 kg) to low Earth orbit;
  • launch cost is $2.5 million, but Astra is working toward $1 million;
  • the company is using aluminum and simplified engines to keep costs down;
  • Astra has a staff of 150 people;
  • Former NASA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Kemp is CEO;
  • Astra’s CTO and co-founder is Adam London, who spent 12 years running Ventions;
  • The company has raised more than $100 million from investors;
  • Astra is the last of three companies standing in the DARPA Launch Challenge, under which it must launch twice from different locations in two weeks to win $12 million; and,
  • Other competitors included Vector Space, which has filed for bankruptcy, and Virgin Origin, which decided to pull out.