Astra suffers launch pad abort | Astra rocket aborts 1st Florida launch attempt

Astra postponed its first mission from Florida on Monday after an abort stopped the company’s small rocket from lifting off.

Astra Space came close but scrubbed another attempt to make its first launch from the Space Coast today. The Rocket 3.3 aborted an attempt from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station right as it was set to lift off, but launch officials decided to not try again during the three-hour window.

Shares of Astra fell 13.7% to close at $4.60. Earlier in the day, the New York Stock Exchange halted the stock for volatility shortly after the company’s launch attempt was aborted at around 1:50 p.m. ET.

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Astra plans to make another attempt at launching the ELaNa 41 mission for NASA. An abort is part of standard procedure in the space industry when an issue is identified before a rocket launches and does not mean the mission failed.

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 “Unfortunately the abort that was around our T-0 time was a minor telemetry issue that the team needs to work to resolve, so unfortunately we need to stand down from today’s launch attempt,” said Astra Space Director of Product Management Carolina Grossman.

Astra has conducted four orbital launches to date, all of them test missions from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. The company reached space on two of those flights, and its LV0007 made it to orbit on the most recent mission, a trial for the U.S. military that launched in November.

Astra is carrying four cube satellites with its LV0008 rocket on the NASA mission, which is the company’s first launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The company reached orbit for the first time three months ago with its LV0007 rocket, launched from Kodiak, Alaska.

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Astra new rocket is carrying four satellites as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative for three universities and one NASA space center. Astra was one of three chosen through NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract, and secured $3.9 million for the launch.

Those little satellites are flying via NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) initiative. They were built by teams at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and three different universities (the University of Alabama, New Mexico State University and the University of California, Berkeley).

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The target is to put the satellites into orbit at around 310 miles altitude. The timeline calls for delivery of the satellites eight minutes and 40 seconds after liftoff, which will mark the first time the company is able to put an operational payload into space.

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Astra did not set a date for a retry, but SLD 45′s Weather Squadron predicted only a 10%-30% chance for good weather on Tuesday with declining conditions during the 1-4 p.m. launch window. A delay to Wednesday sees much better chances with a 70% chance for good weather.

Astra’s vehicle stands 43 feet tall and fits in the small rocket segment of the launch market. Astra’s goal is to launch as many as its small rockets as it can, aiming to hit a rate of one rocket per day by 2025 and drop its $2.5 million price point even further.

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Weather was looking good and the engines ignited at 1:50 p.m. before a shutdown without the rocket taking flight. This followed an unexpected abort on Saturday stemming from a malfunctioning radar system on the Eastern Range, which is managed by the Space Launch Delta 45 unit of the U.S. Space Force.

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Notably, for this launch Astra received the first Federal Aviation Administration license under Part 450 – a new space industry framework designed to streamline the regulatory process for companies requesting both launch and spacecraft reentry licenses. Astra said the FAA approval process took about three months. This latest development will “make it easier for Astra to launch at a higher frequency out of more launch sites in the United States,” the company said.

About the author

Naqvi Syed

Naqvi Syed is is a freelance journalist who has contributed to several publications, including Spacepsychiatrist. He tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. He works with Spacepsychiatrist from a long time.


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