Astra Space Makes It to Orbit

Rocket 3 lifts off from Kodiak Island. (Credit: Astra Space webcast)

The fourth time was a charm for Astra Space.

The company succeeded in reaching Earth orbit for the first time with its Rocket 3 booster on Friday evening. The small-satellite booster put a mass simulator into orbit after liftoff from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

The demonstration launch was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center as part of the Space Test Program’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (RALI). The initiative aims to demonstrate commercially available solutions for placing U.S. Space Force payloads into orbit on a flexible schedule.

The two-stage Rocket 3 is 11.6 meters (38 ft) tall with the capability of placing 25-150 kg (55-331 lb) into a 500 km (310 mile) sunsynchronous orbit.

Rocket 3 had failed in three previous attempts from the Alaskan spaceport. The first failed shortly after liftoff, the second reached space but lacked sufficient velocity to enter orbit, and the third took off sideways after one of its first stage engines failed a second after liftoff. The booster continued to fly but was destroyed by the range safety officer after it flew outside of its assigned airspace.

Astra Space Applies to Launch More than 13,000 Satellites; Proposed Broadband Constellations Exceed 79,000 Spacecraft

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Astra Space has applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the launch more than 13,000 communications satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO), joining SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and other companies seeking to provide broadband services across the globe. The application brings the number of proposed satellites in these constellations to more than 79,000.

“The Astra Constellation as proposed would ultimately consist of as many as 13,620 operational LEO satellites, supported by a global network of gateway earth stations utilizing the identified V-band frequency bands for feeder links for space-to-earth transmit and receive,” the company’s application said.

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Astra Space Reveals Cause of Launch Failure, Sets Window for Next Flight

Rocket 3.3 makes a wobbly liftoff from Kodiak Island after losing a first stage engine. (Credit: NASASpaceflight.com/Astra Space webcast)

ALAMEDA, Calif., October 12, 2021 (Astra Space PR) – Astra Space, Inc. (“Astra”) (Nasdaq: ASTR) today announced a commercial orbital launch on behalf of the United States Space Force. The launch vehicle, LV0007, will carry a test payload for the Space Test Program’s second mission STP-27AD2. The launch window is divided into two segments: the first segment is open from October 27, 2021 through October 31, 2021, and the second is open from November 5, 2021 through November 12, 2021. LV0007 will launch from the Astra Spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska.

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Report: Firefly Sells Reaver Engines to Astra Space

Reaver engines (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Firefly Aerospace’s recent announcement that it would supply rocket engines to other companies left everyone wondering what customers it had in mind. The Verge reports that Astra Space is a buyer.

Under the deal, which closed earlier this year, Firefly will send up to 50 of its Reaver rocket engines to Astra’s rocket factory in Alameda, California, where a development engine was already delivered in late spring for roughly half a million dollars, according to an internal Firefly document viewed by The Verge and a person briefed on the agreement. Astra engineers have been picking apart the engine for detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms, who, like others involved in the deal, declined to speak on the record because of a strict non-disclosure agreement.

Astra’s vice president of communications Kati Dahm declined to discuss the agreement when asked by The Verge for comment on specific details, but disputed as incorrect the number of engines that the deal covers, as well as the cost of roughly a half million dollars for the initial development engine that’s sitting in Astra’s factory. Dahm declined to provide any additional information to back up those disputes.

Fusing Firefly’s engines with Astra’s own rocket technology would help Astra reach its publicly stated “500 kg to 500 km” goal, or the capability to send 1,102 pounds of satellites into the most popular orbital altitude for mega-constellations. The company’s current rocket — simply called Rocket, nothing else — has been test-launched through various iterations, and after three main attempts, has yet to reach orbit. The latest rocket iterations use five of the company’s own Delphin engines, which are designed to lift up to 331 pounds to low-Earth orbit.

Astra Space’s first three launches failed for different reasons. The most recent suffered the failure of one of its five first-stage engines one second after ignition.

SMC Partnering with Astra for Upcoming USSF Launch

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

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will partner with Astra, a wholly-owned U.S. company based in Alameda, California, to perform a demonstration launch for the Department of Defense from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska later this month.  

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Astra Announces Launch Contract with Spire Global

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

ALAMEDA, Calif., August 12, 2021 (Astra Space PR) — Astra Space, Inc. (“Astra”) (NASDAQ: ASTR), named Spire Global, Inc.,  as a launch customer, with plans to begin launching with Astra next spring.

“Our platform requires regular and reliable access to space,” said Robert Sproles, Senior Director, Constellation Planning and Operations at Spire Global Inc. “Astra’s dedicated launch service will provide the flexibility to deliver our satellites to the specific orbits they require, on our schedule.”

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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: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

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)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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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