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Astra’s Apollo Fusion Thruster Ignites on First Attempt in Orbit with Spaceflight

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 26, 2021
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A complete ACE Max thruster unit being tested. (Credit: Apollo Fusion)

Ignition demonstrates technology-proven and cost-effective electric propulsion (EP) system 

ALAMEDA, Calif., August 24, 2021 (Astra Space/Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Astra Space, Inc. (“Astra”) (Nasdaq: ASTR), today announced the successful orbital ignition of its Apollo Fusion thruster on board the Spaceflight Sherpa-LTE1 orbital transfer vehicle (OTV). The Sherpa OTV launched June 30 from SpaceX’s Transporter-2 mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After successfully deploying all rideshare payloads, Spaceflight commissioned the Apollo Fusion thruster, representing Astra’s first attempt at firing the thruster in orbit, marking a significant technical milestone.  

“The telemetry from the on-orbit firing looked excellent and closely matched our ground test results,” said Mike Cassidy, Vice President of Product Management at Astra. “We expect to deliver thrusters for additional satellites over the next quarter and these on-orbit test results are very helpful for several government programs we are supplying propulsion systems on.” 

“This milestone represents the industry’s first fully functional electric propulsion OTV,” said Philip Bracken, VP of Engineering at Spaceflight. “Our next-gen Sherpa OTVs were intentionally designed for maximum modularity, flexibility and rapid development including offering several innovative propulsion solutions. The successful commissioning and ignition of Apollo Fusion’s system paves the way for expanding orbital destinations for smallsats and is paramount in achieving our goal of getting our customers’ payloads to space whenever and wherever they want.”  

Astra acquired Apollo Fusion in July 2021 to leverage Apollo Fusion’s shared focus on designing and manufacturing products at scale that can reach destinations beyond low Earth orbit.

“We’re incredibly proud of everyone who built this EP system.” said Benjamin Lyon, Chief Engineer at Astra. “This is an important milestone on our journey to provide rapid, low-cost access to space.” 

About Astra Space 

Astra’s mission is to improve life on Earth from space by creating a healthier and more connected planet. Astra’s first flight to space was within 4 years of its inception, making it the fastest company to reach space. Visit to learn more about Astra. 

About Spaceflight Inc.

As the premier global launch services provider, Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of space transportation through its comprehensive suite of launch services and Sherpa® orbital transfer vehicles. The company provides unprecedented launch flexibility to ensure customers’ smallsats get to orbit exactly when and where they want through a combination of long-standing relationships with a diverse portfolio of launch partners, innovative satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and extensive mission management expertise. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company. For more information, visit

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